Embellished in immense detail, the Real Teatro di San Carlo is the world’s oldest continually active venue for public opera in the world. Located in the historical heart of Naples, Italy, the stunning theater was promoted by Charles III, king of Bourbon, in 1737. In honor of the king who helped create it, the theater was previously named the Royal Theatre of Saint Charles.
The opera house was designed by the Spanish military architect Giovanni Antonio Medrano and contracted to Angelo Carasale to oversee construction. Astoundingly the detailed theater was erected in about eight months. The final design was a horseshoe-shaped theater lined with 184 boxes scaling at six-tiers. A royal box was also dedicated in the best location for ten people to watch performances. On it’s opening day on November 4, 1737, the theater seated 1,379 people.
In February 1816 a fire broke out during a dress-rehearsal for a ballet performance and quickly spread to destroy a part of building. Only the external masonry walls survived. Once again the theater saw quick construction efforts and it was rebuilt in an impressive nine months. Efforts were led by Tuscan architect Antonio Niccolini who recreated its main features. Antonia, along with Giuseppe and Giovanni Cammarano painted the wonderful relief on the center of the ceiling displaying “Apollo introducing the greatest poets in the world to Minerva”.
The newly renovated structure would undergo an additional modernization in 1844. The building remain largely unaltered until it was destroyed once more in 1943 by World War II bombings and was again rebuilt. By the start of the twenty-first century, however, the opera house was aging quickly, so the Campania regional government funded and extensive two year renovation starting in 2008.
The opera house reopened on 27 January 2010 with Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, the 254th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Remaining an active edifice for theatrical arts, the theater puts on more than 250 performances a year that range from opera, ballet and music.