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Not just music at the Massimo, nor just worldliness. A theater, and even more so a theater so loved, is a cross-section, almost a metaphor of the society in which it operates. Around Massimo, in its 77 years of activity (after the two 7-year breaks in the course of the works: there is to be superstitious!) A microcosm of affections, emotions, dreams has developed, like and more than others theatrical spaces. Events such as the premieres of the Massimo, while involving only a few hundred fans, became topics of discussion in Palermo even for those who would never have had the opportunity to enter the theater. The same ones, perhaps, who have never stopped looking behind the gates, as still happens every morning, waiting for the old Massimo to turn on his lights again.
It all began with one of the still mythical names of the citizen imagination. That of the Florio. Ignazio and Franca Florio. The true sovereigns of the Palermo Belle Époque. From 1906, for about twenty years, Ignazio Florio directly took over the management of the Massimo, in line with his desire to make Palermo one of the international centers of culture and worldliness. In 1939 the "Nido dei Bambini" was established inside the theater, a kind of kindergarten, to allow parents to attend Sunday performances. The children attended, under the supervision of specialized personnel, puppet shows organized by the Theater. The initiative was suspended due to the war in 1941.
From 4 May 1942 to 20 November 1943 the theater is closed. From 1943 to 1944 the management of the Theater was taken over by the "IBS special service" of the Allied Command. In addition to symphonic and opera performances, recitals by American military personnel were performed. From 17 December to 23 December 1946 extraordinary performances for the honors of Luigi Pirandello. The following were represented: Henry IV, Six characters in search of an author, As you want me, together with Paola Borboni. Great prose also in the spring of '46 with Renzo Ricci and Eva Magni, while in 1949 the XXIII International Festival of Contemporary Music was inaugurated in Palermo.
In September 1949, on the occasion of the International Beauty Contest, which saw the proclamation of Miss Europe 1950, two dance and fashion shows were organized at the Massimo, with the participation of the tailor Emilio Schubert, who presented sixty of his new models. For the record, Miss Europe 1950 was the French Juliette Fiqueras. On 9 February 1951 you made your debut in Palermo with an exceptional Norma, Maria Callas. The chronicles refer to her approach to the city that is not exactly happy. In one of her letters to her husband, Divina Callas appeared perplexed about the Palermo experience. The only positive note, her comment on Palermo. "Mi trattano come una dea".
In 1952 the Verdura theater in Villa Castelnuovo was inaugurated, with a prestigious "Sogno di una notte di mezza estate" by Shekaspeare, directed by Guido Salvini, with music by Mendelssohn. Among the actors: Elena Zareschi and Nora Ricci. On 1 September 1954, as part of the first Sicilian review of the Teatro di Prose, Giovaninetti's "Il sangue verde" was performed. Interpreters: Vittorio Gassman and Anna Proclemer. Directed by Gassman. On 27 April 1955 the dramatic oratorio "Giovanna d'Arco al rogo" by Paul Claudel was performed, with music by Arthur Honegger, directed by Roberto Rossellini. The protagonist, Ingrid Bergman, is exceptional and highly applauded.
30 January 1961: screening at the Massimo of Rossellini's film Viva l'Italia in the presence of the Director. The screening was preceded by Verdi's "I Vespri siciliani". November 23, 1961. Concert by Claudio Abbado as part of the XLI Symphonic Season of the Teatro Massimo. The Maestro plays Beethoven, Bach and Tschaikowsky. February 28, 1963. World premiere of "il diavolo in giardino" with music by Franco Mannino and directed by Luchino Visconti. World premiere of "La vita meravigliosa" by Nino Rota directed by Alberto Fassini. Present in the room, with the author, were his closest friends, including Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina.
Epiphany 1955. Show for children, offered by the Sicilian Region to Palermo students. Mario Pompei's "Pimpinella e il suo latte e caffè" were performed, with music by Eliodoro Sollima, and "Hansel and Gretel", a musical fairy tale by E. Humperdinck. March 11, 1974. World premiere screening of Vittorio de Sica's film "Il viaggio", with Sophia Loren and Richard Burton.
On May 4, 1936, in the height of the imperial season, Massimo held a show in favor of the Regime's welfare works. After a lyric recital, which saw, among other things, a performance by Toti Dal Monte, the evening ended with a choreographic novelty, composed by Lina Borroni, with the emblematic title "Faccetta nera". On February 28, 1924, a great evening at the Massimo, for the benefit of the Marino Hospice and the Enrico Albanese Hospital for rickets. Theme of the evening: Visions of history and poetry, a series of theatrical performances, with texts by Luigi Natoli (the author of the Beati Paoli) and music by Maestro Mulè. The actors were the biggest names of the Palermo aristocracy. Among the titles "Gli ozi dell'Emiro Ibn Timna", "Ruggero I", "Il ritorno di Proserpina".
Palermo hosts the World Festival of the Child in June 1956. On this occasion a concert of music inspired by childhood is held at the Massimo, under the direction of Maestro Angelo Musco. January 12, 1975. With a ceremony, defined as "intima", the 1st centenary of the laying of the first stone of the Theater, already closed for a year, is commemorated.
As in all major theaters in Europe, the rank (and price) of seats in the boxes was very diversified. Those in the first row cost 728 lire, those in the second 884, while the boxes in the third, fourth and fifth row cost respectively 468 lire, 208 lire and 130 lire. The seats in the stalls cost 150 lire and the gallery only one lira per show. The possibility of deferring the payment in two installments is curious and unusual. It is well known that each order of boxes corresponded to a precise social connotation, so that the "second row" was always reserved by the great aristocracy, the third by the classes immediately behind, the first by foreigners and the "quinta" by the good society that did not he could be seen around too much (financial meltdowns or recent deaths). It is obvious that people "comme il faut" would never have shown up on a fourth row stage.