La Storia


The Teatro Farnese, one of the largest theatres in seventeenth-century Europe, was built in just one year, between 1617 and 1618, at the behest of the Duke Ranuccio I Farnese. It was designed by architect Giovan Battista Ferrara Aleotti, known as Argenta. The huge hall that houses it, previously used as the Arms Room for chivalric tournaments, was rapidly transformed into a theatre for celebrations and entertainment to mark the arrival in the Duchy of Parma, of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo II de ‘Medici. Ranuccio’s aim was to combine a marriage that would create a political alliance and strengthen relations between the two great ducal families.

Cosimo’s journey fell through owing to health reasons, however, and the theatre was officially opened only in 1628, on the occasion of the marriage of Margherita de’ Medici, daughter of the Grand Duke, to Duke Odoardo Farnese, son of Ranuccio. From then until 1732 it was opened only for weddings and official visits to the Farnese court. No longer used in the 18th century during the reign of the Bourbons, in the 19th century the theatre was visited by intellectuals and travellers from all over Europe.

Re-opened to the city in 1913 for the first Verdi celebrations, in May 1944 the theatre was bombed by the allied forces. Between 1956 and 1965 it was reconstructed using the original proportions and materials, integrating the wood and the few surviving decorations in a structure deliberately left unpainted. Since 1986 it has represented a unique and spectacular entrance for the National Gallery of Parma.

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