Town Theatre
 XX Settembre 125 - Cervia (RA)

 

The first account of a venue for theatrical performances in Cervia dates back to the early 18th century. It was a "local theatre for youth” and was located in a building once belonging to the printing house Saporetti.

 It was a small 200-seat theatre that was used for theatrical performances of actors and puppets, for concerts and raffles. It became too small and a new theatre was built in the eastern bastion of the city but a fire in February 1851 led to the destruction of all wooden structures, furniture and scenes.

This theatre became unfit for use and remained closed for several years.
 In 1858 after many complaints, the City Council decided to build a new theatre in the western bastion which was called "dei Carabinieri". The final project was drafted by the architect Tommaso Stamigni from Perugia. Unfortunately, the war of Independence delayed the construction of the theatre, and works began in 1860 as attested by a plaque on the façade.

 It was finally inaugurated on Christmas evening in 1862 with the play "The family of the drunkard" written by an unspecified author and performed by the theatre company "Compagnia Drammatica Internari". Renovations had been directed by master builders Zanuccoli and Zacchi and by the sculptor Ulisse Bonelli who created the architectural decorations; in the boxes he made the fluted columns with Ionic capitals and in the foyer and lobby the stucco decorations."

The painter Giovanni Canepa from Lugano designed the painted decorations of the theatre, the scenes and the curtain. Andrea Sangiorgi a "lighting technician" from Faenza created the lighting system of the theatre using candles and oil lamps. Teodoro Gardella who had already worked as stagehand at the theatre Alighieri of Ravenna, built the winches and all the mechanisms for the movement of the scenes and of the lights as well as the noise machines.

The façade of the theatre is tall and narrow, it is raised a few steps above street level and is not aligned with the structure of theatre. The main entrance is on a side of the building. Over the door there is a big lunette window illuminating the foyer of the first floor.

The public can reach the auditorium through the very broad entrance where the ticket office is located. The foyer is surrounded by four marble columns and two side staircases giving access to the boxes. The hall is horseshoe-shaped with two tiers of boxes (twenty-eight) and a gallery that can be reached through an independent staircase. Boxes are divided by columns with Ionic capitals.

Its vaulted ceiling rests on the gallery walls “thanks to an elegant system of pointed arches, and is characterised by a central circular “mouth” that used to be opened and closed by a wooden rose window with golden fretwork and it was used to move the chandelier " (..).

Dressing rooms are located on one side of the big stage. The paintings on the ceiling have been restored several times by the company Galossi from Ravenna and by master Aldo Scione during the twentieth century but the style of the painter Canepa is still recognizable: "There is a large circle with floral decorations painted in a series of pointed arches. The circle is divided into twelve sectors in the middle of which nymphs are dancing[...].

Between one nymph and the other there are twelve painted medallions with profiles of famous people"(...). The old curtain was created by the same artist and it depicts the boat of Apollo Musagetes that docks in Cervia carrying the nine Muses, included Thalia who is standing next to God. In the background, the town and the tower are dominated on the left by the image of Our Lady of the Assumption. On the left there is also a boat probably carrying the adults of the town, while another small boat with a salt load is approaching. ""

The boat full of salt reminds of the place where the theatre stands. The theatre was surrounded by the houses of salt workers, forming a small fortress of lined-up buildings around the theatre. From the outside the theatre looks like an ordinary house. It has a little entrance next to the house where the writer Grazia Deledda had lived for almost 14 years. "But surprisingly inside there is a stunning theatre" (Itinerario 1994). It was renovated in 1875 after the earthquake, in 1894 when candles were replaced by oil lamps, in 1904 when acetylene gas lamps were introduced and in 1922 when they were replaced by a modern electrical system.

In 1923 a new wooden floor was built, thus conveying a very suggestive atmosphere to the theatre. Before the latest renovations the theatre had about 350 seats, and hosted opera, ballet, meetings and conferences and was used as cinema during the war. In 1951 it was again declared unfit for use and became a warehouse. In particular it was used for the distribution of relief aid for victims of the flood in Polesine who were temporarily accommodated in the so-called Colonie Marittime.

In 1983 the theatere was again declared unfit for use. It regained its former appearance after the renovations from 1985 to 1991 carried out by the architect Giorgio Salmaso and from 1991 to 1994 carried out by the engineer Roberto Buonafede, head of the city technical bureau. On this occasion the ceiling was renovated and reinforced. New toilet facilities have been created by digging under the stage and a concrete structure supporting the new stage made of iron and wood was built. In order to make the building earthquake resistant, some parts of it have been reinforced and many architectural barriers have been eliminated.

Plants were renovated to meet new regulation requirements. The old flooring was replaced with Terrazzo flooring, marble or carpet depending on the intended use. There is a two-level gallery withvelvet chairs as in the audience. The bar, the cloakroom and ticket office are decorated with painted wooden elements with mirrors. From the technical point of view, the theatre has been equipped with a a modern lighting system, dimmers and projectors..

The ceiling of the audience had fallen in and had cracks. Purlins have been secured to the roof with steel beams that slowly brought the structure back to its original height. Further renovations of the damaged paintings on the wooden structures and on the walls were performed by the painter Enzo Petrucci from Urbino. It is not possible to use again the old decorative curtain, which will undergo separate renovations, because it is made of inflammable material which is not in compliance with the fire regulations.

Today, the maximum capacity is 230 seats. A photographic exhibition of the renovations will be held in the foyer. The theatre was inaugurated on 28th May 1994 with a concert of Fiorella Mannoia dedicated to the city of Cervia. The theatre is now under the direction of the Cultural Service of the Municipality of Cervia and is part of a “system of small and medium-sized theatres in the Romagna region" (Longo, Cesenatico, Bagnacavallo) managed by the cooperative "Accademia Perduta - Romagna Teatri " performing prose, music, comedy, plays for young adults and in dialect. Also the music society “Prendi nota” gives concerts in the theatre.

Of course the press warmly welcomed the opening of the theatre despite criticising the lengthy renovation that lasted nine years. Local administrators pointed out the difficulties in combining new safety requirements with the preservation of the artistic heritage, and the difficulties in renovating the vault through specific advanced technologies.