Designed by Carlo Gatteschi in 1854, it has been home to important cultural and theatrical events for over a century and a half. Owned by the Academy of the Arditi, located in Piazza Signorelli on the original site of the ancient church of S. Andrea, it was designed in perfect neoclassical style. It’s loggia has seven arches, and internally two rows of eight pillars with vaulted lunette roofs. Intense and of quality has always been it’s activity; for many years it has also been used as a cinema, café and conference room.
The History of the Theatre of Cortona from the book “Il Teatro Signorelli di Cortona” The first part of the volume, “L’Accademia degli Uniti and the ancient Teatro del Biscione. An unprecedented glimpse of the origins of the theater in Cortona” frames, with the skillful and light pen of Dr. Rocchini, the birth of the Teatro Signorelli in the civil society of Cortona, focusing on the secular relationship of the city itself with theatrical art. Already in the 1500’s, in the Teatro del Biscione, at Palazzo Casali, at the time Palazzo Pretorio, the seat of the court and prisons, authors such as Plautus were put on stage in the vernacular language. Documents found in the Library and in the Historical Archive of the Municipality of Cortona tell us about a city where music, and art in general, already in the sixteenth century, were in lively movement, thanks also to the United Academy, centre of fervid and industrious cultural discussion. Throughout the seventeenth century, the documentary testimonies refer to numerous small theatres in the noble houses of the historical centre but also of “makeshift” stages through the city streets and in the countryside. But especially a continuous flow of amateur shows, in the city and outside the walls, which become occasions for popular socialization. Above all the shows come from the big city theatres to Cortona. Hence the need for a new theatre structure. A theatre with three tiers and 49 boxes, Italian style. This becomes the Biscione in 1646. “A place where the aristocrats could show themselves and celebrate”, says Dr. Rocchini, “a theatre reserved for the noble classes, with the boxes marked by the family crests that showed, however, also the capacity of the city to update itself to the demands of fashion, something rare in small towns. Suffice it to say that in Florence, the La Pergola theatre was built only 10 years before! ” Il Biscione will remain the city theater until 1800, when the need for urgent work, too expensive for the United Academy that ran it, and for the city, turned thoughts to a theatre from scratch to be realized, at first, in Via Dardano (in the building that now houses the local Carabinieri station), and then definitively in the current position. The project was part of a broader redevelopment plan for the Logge del Mercato which would have led to a reorganization of the square and an expansion of the current Via Casali.
We are in the mid-nineteenth century when the Academy of the Uniti disappears and the Academy of the Arditi is born. For 150 years now, it has owned the theatre itself and manages its cultural activities.
The history of the architectural project of the theatre and it’s execution is illustrated by the architect Pietro Matracchi in the second part of the volume, with particular reference to the experimentation of new building materials of which Gatteschi decides to make use in the elegant building in neoclassical style.
Among the curiosities, the photos of the scale prototype of the Signorelli theatre, recently restored and kept in the premises of the Academy (which deserves to be exhibited to the public, for the enjoyment of all, perhaps at the MAEC!).
The volume closes with a third part dedicated to “L’Accademia degli Arditi and the activity of the Signorelli Theater”.
With Dr. Sandrelli we retrace the years of theatre parties, of the plays written for the Carnival, of the sonnets made for the “veglioni”. Many will recognize themselves or recognize faces of the past, more or less recent, and of the present Cortona in a series of photographs that bear witness to the fervent activity of the Signorelli theatre during the last century.
Scroll through the pages of memorable shows, the illustrious names of actors and singers who have tread the boards of the Cortona stage, up to the 1970’s and the birth of a happy collaboration with the Fondazione Toscana Spettacolo, which re-launches the Cortona theatrical season, to the artistic direction of Giancarlo Zanetti, to the Tuscan Sun Festival evenings, to the more recent ones of the Mix Festival.
A 150-year history, that of the Teatro Signorelli and of Cortona, celebrated by a volume of merit that was truly lacking.
Descriptions taken from the presentation of the book “Il Teatro Signorelli di Cortona” by Pietro Matracchi, Eleonora Sandrelli and Patrizia Rocchini