Most modern theaters around the world are all based on the classic architectural design of Italian theaters that were built during the architectural revolution during the 18th & 19th Centuries. The Italians had drawn the blueprint on how a theater should be designed and constructed. Firstly the theater should be in a horseshoe shape, (which was the forerunner to auditoriums), there would be tiered seating with private boxes to the sides.
There are some absolutely grand theaters in Italy, with seating for thousands in splendid luxury. But there are also some very petite theaters that are quite amazing, and each one proclaims itself as the smallest in the world. Here are some of the very best.
Our fist petite delight is in the northeast of Italy and is the delightful Valvasone Theater. Built in the 18th Century this theater is inside a castle in Pordenone. It is one of the few privately owned theaters that still exists in Italy. It was built and has been owned by the Valvasone family who have maintained this architectural gem for hundreds of years. Although a visit would be by invitation only, there are certain days that this theater is open to the public.
Our second theater is completely different to our first as it was built as a community theater that everybody could use and take advantage of. Still located in the province of Pordenone, it was constructed in the 1700s as a small proscenium arch. Its early life was as a local government building acting as a court, and the seat of the local council. But it still remained a theater and can be found in the oldest part of San Vito.
Antonio Belloni Theater
Moving roughly two hundred and fifty miles to the west of Pordenone we travel to Lombardy for our third smallest theater of Italy. This theatre is absolutely gorgeous if that adjective can be levelled at a theater. There are eight private boxes to the rear of the theater with seating in the stalls for about sixty people, so everybody is close to the tiny stage. According to the theater’s website, this theater is the world’s smallest opera house. The owner and the person who built this theater was Marco Belloni who also owned a fine furniture and cabinetry factory. This is certainly evident in the luxurious hand-carved wooden salon which is perfect for pre-curtain aperitifs.
Traveling further south into Liguria we come to our last theater, the Salvini Theater. This building is cleverly designed to make as much use of the tiny space the theater is built on. There is even a small gallery that runs around the theater which has just enough room for a single wooden chair every few feet. The stage is a petite forty-three meters in size, and the Salvini Theater can hold just short of one hundred people. Since its first performance back in the mid-19th Century actors have been performing prose and lyrical works there. These theaters all have one thing in common and that is their compact size, but they are much more than tiny auditoriums. They are all beautifully designed and constructed in an age when craftsmanship was the defining rule.