Vincenzo Scamozzi, teatro Ducale (1588)

Sabbioneta (MN)
Piazza D'Armi 1, Sabbioneta (MN)

Interior and exterior.

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Data updated to 25.08.2016.

photo Vaclav Sedy

The Sabbioneta theatre is the first example of a ‘modern’ theatrical building, uninfluenced by a pre-existing structure or outer ‘shell’ and erected with a majestic, autonomous architectural façade free on three sides. On the basis of his experience with Olympic Theatre in Vicenza, Vincenzo created an ‘organic’, functional space in a design characterised by both traditional and innovative elements and comprising an important part of the theatrical style of the sixteenth century and suggesting solutions for the future. The scenery was in wood, as in the Olympic Theatre, but at Sabbioneta had just one focal point, featured a combination of noble, dramatic and satirical elements and created a polyfunctional stage setting, suitable for tragedies, comedies and pastoral pieces. The central part of the auditorium and the Corinthian peristyle are derived from the Olympic Theatre in Vicenza. Around the balustrade, frescoed walls which create a sort of ‘Veronese’ flavour, present painted images of curious spectators, while the whole scenic effect projects an archetypical image of a sixteenth century courtyard adapted for use as a theatre. With respect to the Olympic Theatre, at Sabbioneta the Palladian frons scena and the scenic central archway were omitted. The method of illumination and the decorative artificial sky of the continuous ceiling, contributed towards creating a ‘total’ architectural and theatrical space. The layout of the various areas and positioning of the access routes is innovative, as is the position of the spectators. Unlike previous theatrical buildings, at Sabbioneta the place of honour is at the centre of the loggia, from which the gaze of the Vespasiano Gonzaga coincided with the vanishing point of the scenic perspective and dominated the audience and entire scene.