When small is big and beautiful

by Sandra Massai Fallaci, ph. Alessandro Gambinossi


The smallest theatre in the world is that of Vetriano, in Garfagnana, with a 30-sq-metre stage, 71-sq-metre stalls and boxes for a total of 80 seats. Quaint and cosy, this architectural rarity was born in 1889 from a barn converted into a theatre by the same community. Sometimes the same people living there would write the texts which they then acted so that it gained importance as a meeting point for the inhabitants who, at first, actually used to bring chairs from home along with them to attend the play. The performance was also a rite but that rite had meanings and importance well beyond the play: it was the expression of a whole community which found its own social identity, not only in work and daily fatigue.  Entire families would meet up there to share a space that was strongly sought after and created by their very own selves with dedication and passion. Around the 1960s with the depopulation of the countryside even the theatre was abandoned becoming derelict. In ’97, when it fell under the administration of FAI, a radical and extraordinary process of refurbishment started, returning a true jewel to the public. The restoration had been so careful, remarkable and close to the original that in 2003 it won the theatrical architecture prize for the best philological restoration together with La Fenice theatre in Venice. The “Teatrino” can be visited and offers a rich programme. The magic of the past catches up on us even visiting another historic place in a totally different part of Tuscany, in Casentino. It’s Teatro dei Dovizi in Bibbiena. Built in 1842 on the initiative of the Accademia degli Operosi, designed by the architect Niccolò Matas, the theatre features a U-shaped plan with three tiers of boxes and a stage parallel to the street front. Alas, from ’75 to ’82, when it became a cinema, the partitions of the stalls were demolished, the stage and curtains brought down. Once closed in ’82 it underwent consistent re-planning works on its internal design and a new scenic set up, inspired by typical models of Italian tradition. The reopening in ’96 was a great day indeed with Carla Fracci and Pier Luigi Pizzi as “environmental” coordinator. With this last refurbishment by the architect Massimo Gasparon, the theatre recovered its original wooden coverage once more, the ceiling decorated with a sky of Tiepolo-like hues, the third tier of stalls, the trellis, the gallery but most of all it recovered the ancient plastic and baroque èsprit. It goes without saying: bringing these Tuscan jewels to life again means grasping the occasion to give meaning and timeliness once again to locations of our best cultural tradition.

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