Teatro Bibiena, Via Accademia, Italy

The Teatro Bibiena di Mantova, so called “scientific” theatre designed by Antonio Galli Bibiena in 1767, famous around the world for the interior decoration, is a real jewel, a place where artistic and musical perfection is achieved To visit this theatre is to discover the splendour and grace of the Age of Enlightenment, accompanied by the spirit of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who performed on the opening night of the theatre January 16, 1770

The place where the theater was located was previously occupied by a palace, a house of Ferrante I Gonzaga, count of Guastalla, general of the imperial army during the Sacco di Roma, then Viceroy of Sicily. His son Caesar founded, in 1562, hosting him with him, the Invaghiti Academy (since 1610 Academy of Invitations, from the 1648 Academy of Shadows).

The building included a small covered theater, probably graded, in line with the style of the era. In 1767, about sixty years after the beginning of Austrian domination, it was the Timid Academy that commissioned a new theater. The commission was commissioned to Bolognese Antonio Bibbiena, son of the well-known baroque artist Ferdinando. He was a soloist and architect, Antonio had shown himself in the creation of the new Theater of Bologna, inaugurated on May 14, 1763 and in Mantua, in the design of the facade of the Church of San Barnaba.

Bibiena demolished the sixteenth-century theater and designed a fixed scene, whose edges erected two overlapping corridors to form a two-storey loggia. The auditorium had a bell-shaped design that produces the feeling of a circular environment. The room looks finely decorated: with four columns, four niches with statues of illustrious mantovans (Gabriele Bertazzolo, Baldassarre Castiglione, Pietro Pomponazzi, Virgilio) and a general decorative trim that produces a sense of movement.

The shipyard was completed in just two years and the new theater in Mantua was inaugurated on December 3, 1769 with the Virgilio and Manto cantata by Luigi Gatti.

It was said ‘Scientific Theater’, since it had to hold academic meetings of education and education, in line with the aims of the Academy and the Enlightenment spirit of the time.

Constructed for the Royal Virgilian Academy of Science and Arts (the “Accademia Virgiliana”), the theatre in Mantua was designed in late Baroque or early Rococo style by Antonio Galli Bibiena and erected between 1767 and 1769 With a bell-shaped floorplan and four rows of boxes, it followed the new style of theatres then in vogue It was intended to host both theatre productions and concerts, and scientific discourses and conventions Bibiena also provided the monochrome frescoes in the interior The theatre is now considered to be his most important work

It was opened officially on 3 December 1769 A few weeks later, on 16 January 1770, thirteen-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played a concert here, with resounding success His father, Leopold Mozart, wrote about the theatre: “In all my life, I have never seen anything more beautiful of its kind”

In 1773, Giuseppe Piermarini, who constructed the neighbouring palazzo for the Accademia Virgiliana, designed and built the façade of the theatre

Still used for its original purposes, it now can also be visited by tourists as one of Mantua’s museums The theatre is relatively small, with a scene 12,3 metres wide and 5,6 metres deep, and a maximum audience of 363 persons

With the Emperor’s Decree of November 9, 1767, the Timid Academy was absorbed into the newborn Academy of Science and Beautiful Letters (it will become the Virgilian National Academy under Napoleon): a true university to which they were aggregated in those years academies of painting, sculpture and architecture, the philharmonic, the ‘colony of arts and crafts’ and the agricultural academy. It was then decided to rebuild the old building that housed the new theater. A contest was launched attended by the mantovano Gaetano Crevola, the Bolognese Antonio Bibiena, the author of the theater and the “real architect” Giuseppe Piermarini. The latter won and made, in 1770, the design, then realized in 1773-75 by the Veronese Paolo Pozzo. They made a work with a sober, neoclassical facade extended to the theater without, however, intervening in the interior, preserving the original baroque features.

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