When does the Teatro Carignano date from? This is the most obvious and immediate question, and instinctively we can say that the splendid Savoy jewel box is about to celebrate its 300th birthday. However avoiding ambiguity requires a more complex reply. First we must ask exactly which theatre we are talking about.
The fact is that since the beginning (and excluding numerous renovations), in essence there has been a succession of three theatres. If we start with the current building, it could be dated to 1786, the year of its reconstruction by Francesco Ferroggio, who in just a few months re-erected the complex after it was destroyed by a fire. But we have to remember that Ferroggio rebuilt the theatre respecting the previous structure, a horseshoe-shaped theatre constructed in 1752-53 by Benedetto Alfieri. Unfortunately the drawings that would confirm Alfieri’s authorship have been lost, but contemporary sources leave no room for doubt: the Prince of Carignano’s theatre is unanimously attributed to Alfieri, the royal architect, who was also responsible for the Teatro Regio (erected in 1740, it was destroyed by a fire in 1936) and the “business centre” that still today characterises Piazza Castello up to the Cavallerizza. So we can say that the current Teatro Carignano building is the one designed in the mid-18th century by Alfieri. And it is right to remember this now, as we rediscover the 18th-century facade distinguished by the entrance arch with elegant Cumiana-stone columns and as the majestic portico reappears, after having been sacrificed at the end of the 18th century for a mezzanine. However we also know that prior to 1753 there was another Carignano theatre functioning on the same site for almost half a century. This was the theatre created at the start of the 18th century from the modification of what was known as the Trincotto Rosso, a building with a rectangular layout erected in the early 17th century for playing real tennis. Though the history of the Trincotto has been reconstructed from archival documents from 1608 through the whole of the 17th century, it should be considered only as a preface to the real story of the Carignano theatre, which strictly speaking begins around 1710. Three hundred years ago, to be precise, when Prince Vittorio Amedeo di Carignano, having inherited the Trincotto acquired by his father Emanuele Filiberto in 1703, renovated it and turned it into a theatre space, in particular furnishing it with 56 boxes for spectators. The early documents are circumstantial, but it is clear that from then on the venue regularly hosted dramatic and musical performances, becoming in just a few years a regular destination for the aristocracy of Turin, a city which in 1713 achieved the status of capital of the kingdom. We were surprised and pleased to realise that the present “rebirth” of the 18th-century Carignano provides us with the best possible context in which to properly celebrate the imminent tercentenary of Turin’s best-loved theatre. The theatre’s popularity and prestige are nothing new; already in 1825, when the young Carlo Alberto arranged for renovation works to be carried out by Gran Madre architect Ferdinando Bonsignore, an impresario launched a request for support based on the fact that “the Theatre of His Most Serene Highness the Prince of Carignano has always been considered by Turin’s Public not a secondary theatre but as another Royal Theatre and therefore demands grand performances.” It comes as no surprise to learn that over the course of three centuries audiences here have applauded and often anointed some of the best-known names in the history of Italian theatre. It was here during the Restoration years that Niccolò Paganini uttered the proverbial “Paganini non ripete” (Paganini does not repeat), and Carlotta Marchionni, the Reale Sarda company’s supreme leading lady, performed in Silvio Pellico and Leopoldo Marenco’s tragedies, as well as comedies by Alberto Nota and Angelo Brofferio. These playwrights represented the new Italian drama which fed the Risorgimento, following in the footsteps of Vittorio Alfieri and Carlo Goldoni, two incomparable masters who were also hosted by the Carignano in their time. After Marchionni and the Reale Sarda, the glorious forerunner to the Teatro Stabile di Torino (founded in 1955 and the theatre’s proprietor since 1977), the same boards were trod by Adelaide Ristori, a world-famous star of the late 19th century, before Eleonora Duse triumphed in 1884 with Giovanni Verga’s Cavalleria rusticana. A young Arturo Toscanini made his Turin debut here, while Friedrich Nietzsche enthused over Carmen. During the 20th century, the theatre saw Luigi Pirandello’s works performed by Ruggero Ruggeri, while Antonio Gramsci and Piero Gobetti made their debut here as theatre critics. It was at the Carignano in 1955 that audiences applauded Uncle Vanya, directed by Luchino Visconti and starring Marcello Mastroianni, and here that in 1977 the Stabile’s tenure was fittingly inaugurated by its director Mario Missiroli’s own Uncle Vanya, with Gastone Moschin, Annamaria Guarnieri, Giulio Brogi and Monica Guerritore. Turin’s best plays have passed through here, directed by Gianfranco De Bosio, Franco Enriquez, Luca Ronconi, Gabriele Lavia, Massimo Castri and more. The list of famous names is now being extended by the renowned actors featuring in the programme put together by Mario Martone.
Piazza Carignano, 6 – Torino
55 – 56 – 13 – 15 / bus stop Piazza Castello
72 – 72/ – 58 – 4 – 11 /bus stop Piazza Bertola