Of the original architecture of the Teatro Farnese, you can still see today the old structure inspired by the models of Greek and Roman theatres. A steep flight of horseshoe-shaped steps surmounted by a double-arched loggia surrounds the extensive stalls while, on the other side, a grand proscenium frames the deep stage. Two statues of Alessandro and Ottavio Farnese on horseback remain as part of the old decorations and the end walls bear fresco decorations by Emilian and Lombardic artists, such as Trotti, Spada, and Badalocchio and Bertoja.

The space around and under the stage hid the complex machinery required for the “marvels” of the Baroque theatre. Made under the supervision of stucco master Luca Reti, plaster statues of mythological gods decorated the niches around the loggias and the stage. Some of these are still visible in the rooms of the under the amphitheatre.

Given the complexity of the stage performances and their high costs, during Farnese rule the theatre was used only nine times. One of the most important of these events took place in 1628: to mark the marriage of Margherita de’ Medici and Duke Odoardo, a mythological-allegorical drama entitled Mercury and Mars was enacted, with music by Claudio Monteverdi and texts by Claudio Achillini. A chivalric tournament and a show with sea monsters and sea battles, known as a naumachia, completed the celebrations.

The nine shows performed at the Teatro Farnese:

1628 Inauguration of the theatre with the tournament and the performance “Mercury and Mars” by Claudio Achillini, with music by Claudio Monteverdi. This marked the wedding of Duke Ottavio Farnese to Margherita de’ Medici.

1652 Representation of the fantasy piece “The events of Time” by Bernardo Morando, with music by Francesco Manelli, to mark the visit of Archdukes Carlo, Sigismondo, Francesco and Anna of Tuscany.

1660 Representation of the three-act drama “The Wire”, or “Juno making peace with Hercules” by Francesco Berni, with scenes by Carlo Pasetti and music by Francesco Manelli during celebrations for the wedding of Ranuccio II Farnese and Margherita Violante di Savoia.

1664 Musical entertainment by maestro Oliva for the second marriage of Duke Ranuccio II to Isabella d’Este.

1668 Representation of the play “The Parma” written by Alexander Guitti to celebrate the third wedding of Duke Ranuccio II, with Maria d’Este, the sister of his second wife.

1690 A grandiose spectacle entitled “The favour of the gods”, written by Aurelio Aureli and set to music by Bernard Sabadini to celebrate the wedding of Odoardo Farnese to Dorothea Sophie of Neoburgo.

1714 Concert for the wedding of Elisabetta Farnese and Philip V of Spain.

1728 Equestrian carousel entitled “The Wedding of Neptune and Amphitrite”, from the libretto by Carlo Innocenzo Frugoni, set to music by Leonardo Vinci and staged by Sebastiano Galeotti, to celebrate the marriage of Antonio Farnese and Enrichetta d’Este.

1732 Performance of “Coming of Ascanio to Italy” from the libretto by Carlo Innocenzo Frugoni, staging by Pietro Righini, to celebrate the arrival in Parma of Don Carlo of Bourbon, son of Elizabeth Farnese and the Infante of Spain.

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