In 1838 the Community of Modena decided to build a modern theatre able to fully meet the representative needs of the city and improve its image.
At the time, Modena was insufficiently served by the old Municipal Theatre in Via Emilia situated in the building which from the 17th century housed the ancient comedy theatre, the Valentini.
The new construction was entrusted to the ducal architect, Francesco Vandelli, designer of the Foro Boario and the church of S. Giovanni del Cantone. Before starting the project he visited some important contemporary theatres among which (documented by reliefs) those of Piacenza, Mantua and the Scala of Milan of which he noted down the dimensions. These represent one of the few graphic documents by the architect of whom no handwritten designs of the municipal theatre are known to exist.
Work began in May 1838 in the chosen area between Canalgrande, Vicolo Venezia, Fontedabisso and Strada S. Margherita, by demolishing or knocking down twelve houses. Nevertheless, the space was still too small with the result that the façade of the building broke the symmetry of the houses in Canalgrande.
This made the building more easily recognisable as a theatre from a distance, the view of which was in fact obstructed by the narrowness of the road in which it was erected. After almost four years of work the theatre - with a large portico on the outside to park carriages, numerous service rooms (among which the spacious room for decor used until a few years ago), a horse-shoe plan auditorium with four boxes and a gallery and a richly decorated ceiling - was inaugurated the evening of 3 October 1841 with the opera Adelaide of Borgogna at the Canossa Castle with music by Alessandro Gandini.
Since that date the building has not undergone any radical changes. Today it has the original neoclassic façade with a flat ashlar portico on the ground floor, architraved windows on the first floor and an attic with smaller windows.
The relief of the central part is marked by four Dorian columns on which a balustrade of small pillars is set which frames three windows scanned by Ionic pilasters. To crown it all a gable decorated with the Genius of Modena which frames the coat of arms of the city.
The façade is embellished by a valuable plastic decoration made with rosettes placed on the archivolts on the ground floor as well as bas-reliefs by Luigi Righi to the sides of the portico and in correspondence to the windows.
The ceiling - from which the large chandelier has been hanging since the introduction of electricity in 1887 - is decorated with ornamentation by Camillo Crespolani and figures by Luigi Manzini, who also made the stuccoes depicting stories of the Genius running along the balconies of the boxes framed by slender pillarets. In 1869 the ceiling was repainted by Ferdinando Manzini who suggested the addition of four groups of putti.
The ticket-office at the Municipal Theatre is open on Tuesday from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm and on Wednesday, Thuersday and Friday from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, on Saturday from 10:00 am to 14:00 and 4:00 pm to 7:00pm.
Guided tours are possible upon reservation: email@example.com