A LIVING LEGACY
The project has three clear objectives
To reconstruct the Teatro San Cassiano of 1637 as faithfully as modern scholarship and traditional craftsmanship will allow to deliver a fully functioning, dedicated Baroque opera house, complete with its own fully operational Baroque stage machinery, moving scene-sets and special effects.
To restore historically-informed Baroque opera to Venice.
To establish the Teatro San Cassiano as a world-renowned centre for the research, the exploration and staging of Historically Informed Performance, literally studying Baroque opera through its recital on stage and in the orchestra pit.
The Teatro San Cassiano is conspicuous in history as the first opera house to open its doors to a wider ticket-buying public and to move opera away from the preserve of private patronage and forward to a commercially independent entertainment accessible to all.
This momentous act sparked a global opera boom with Venice as its celebrated capital and ensured that forevermore the Teatro San Cassiano would be revered as the world’s first public opera house.
In fact, one can go further: it is the birthplace of modern-day opera. It is undoubtedly the most culturally significant theatre in the history of music, and yet…it no longer exists. While the demand for Baroque opera continues to grow, in Venice and in Italy, no single, fully-functioning, commercially active Baroque theatre survives. All have perished with time. Venice has lost its ability to stage historically-informed Baroque opera. The Teatro San Cassiano itself was demolished under Napoleon’s instruction in 1812.
But it is not too late. We have the means to recover the theatre from the clutches of time and Venice can once again lead the world in Baroque opera production; better still, all can be achieved within a modern vision of a forward looking and sustainable Serenissima.
WIDER AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
Having rebuilt the theatre, our aim will then be to preserve for the benefit of the people of Venice, Italy and the world, the musicological, historical, and architectural heritage of one of Venice’s greatest achievements and contributions to world culture.
Our goal will be to join with Venice in celebrating its history in a form that is relevant to the world today, by expanding its music industry and by increasing investment and employment opportunities within the city.
Our plan is to build upon the theatre’s heritage as the first ‘public’ opera house to re-interpret in a modern context how the theatre can reach out to its modern-day public in new and imaginative ways.
We are passionate about creating a legacy for future generations of Venetians through our museum and school outreach projects, bringing children into the theatre and into close interactive contact with all aspects of opera performance and production.
We also want to go further by promoting, maintaining and advancing public awareness of the benefits of music therapy by initiating a programme of music therapy services—related where possible to opera—that reaches out to Venice and allows opera to play an intrinsic role in the well-being of its local community.
We will deliver the project using an independent hybrid charitable/commercial model that seeks to pursue charitable objectives for the greater good, but finances its activities through commercial enterprise rather than public funding.
CURRENT PREDICAMENT: ITALY AND VENICE
Due to a process in which its earlier theatres have either ceased to exist or have seen their interiors modernised, enlarged or adapted to serve other genres, Italy has very quietly lost the ability to stage Baroque opera in its original context.
Today, the country that gave the world opera finds itself without a single commercially active Baroque opera theatre with functioning period stage machinery and scene-sets.
While London performs Shakespeare at its Globe theatre and Paris celebrates the grandeur of Louis XIV at Versailles, Italy and Venice remain without an iconic or living Baroque theatre by which they can acclaim and promote one of their greatest gifts to world culture.
Venice is home to three wonderful theatres: the Gran Teatro La Fenice, the Teatro Goldoni and the Teatro Malibran; but their respective specialisation to ‘opera lirica’, playhouse theatre and symphonic concerts means that none of them is able to host historically-informed Baroque opera. All are too large and their original stage machinery and scene-sets long since replaced by modern infrastructure. The problem is increased by the fact that La Fenice has rightly ceased staging regular Baroque opera. Artistically, current Venetian auditoriums are too large and are not suited to the more intimate environment required for Baroque opera. Commercially, economies of scale mean that productions from the Classical and Romantic eras simply offer better returns financially.
In the meantime, Venice is left with a vacuum and a missed opportunity. Instead of flocking to the home of opera, enthusiasts must travel elsewhere to indulge their passion for Baroque music. At precisely the time when Venice should be leading the emerging Baroque market, its vision of Baroque opera survives only as an empty relic of what it once was.
THE SOLUTION: A VENETIAN BAROQUE OPERA HOUSE
A rebuilt Teatro San Cassiano offers the perfect solution to the current predicament, and at once restores Venice as arguably the world’s foremost centre for Baroque opera.
- The reconstructed 1637 theatre will go to the heart of addressing the need in Venice (and indeed Italy) for precisely the type of small intimate auditorium that shaped the development of opera (and Venetian opera especially) in the 17th and 18th centuries.
- The Teatro San Cassiano will be the only fully active Baroque theatre in the world. Its iconic status will provide the perfect conditions for it to become the world’s foremost centre for of Baroque opera, attracting the world’s greatest conductors, singers and musicians.
- It will establish at its core (both on and off stage) an unprecedented collaboration to bring the worlds of musicology and music performance into a practical union which will go to the very heart of the methodology and practical experimentation necessary to truly explore Historically Informed Performance within opera production.
- Singers, musicians, the theatre and the public will be able to engage and to interact as part of a uniquely Baroque experience, which has until now been lost to opera.