In the heart of Vicenza, inside the ancient prisons, the Olympic Theatre is an unmissable visit for any traveller visiting the city of Palladio and on vacation in Veneto.
The history of the Vicenza Olympic Theatre
The Olympic Theatre is one of the architectural masterpieces that Palladio left to the city of Vicenza and to the entire world and is also his spiritual testament, his final project before his death and was completed only after by his pupil Vincenzo Scamozzi.
The Olympic Theatre is the first covered permanent theatre in the world and is not just one of the wonders of Vicenza, but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In this building Palladio summarises all his work and studies based on the reinterpretation of classical art, but answering the needs and functions for which the structure was created.
The Olympic Theatre: a project for the Olympic Academy of Vicenza
It was commissioned to Palladio by the Olympic Academy, of which he was a partner and founder, to stage classic comedies.The Academy obtained the concession of the ancient building of the Prisons from the municipality of the city of Vicenza. A medieval fortress and Palladio designed a theatre that fit inside this building creating a masterpiece.
The project of the Vicenza Olympic Theatre
The Palladian project reconstructs the building symbol of the classical cultural tradition, the Roman Theatre.
His in-depth studies of the architectural texts of Vitruvius and the vision of the ancient ruins led him to the creation of an environment that imitates the outdoor setting of the classic theatres.
The result is spectacular, despite the small size of the space and niches, the classical statues, the thirteen steps and the intact scenography that Scamozzi created for the inauguration add up to an extraordinary theatre.
Construction began in 1580, a year before Palladio's death, who, therefore, did not see the work completed. The Olympic Theatre was inaugurated on 3rd March 1585 with a representation of the Greek tragedy of Oedipus King of Sophocles.
The fame of the new theatre and its grand inauguration spread throughout Europe, arousing admiration for the ability to have revived classical art.
Tanta became famous that it was decided to reserve the theatre only for some special occasions and to leave the wooden scenography by Scamozzi intact which is how it has reached this day.
The scenography of the Olympic Theatre: the ancient city of Thebes
The scenography created by the pupil of Palladio reconstructs the city of Thebes that, with a great perspective effect “breaks through” the stage, visually expanding the space and making it a perfect masterpiece in every detail.
After the inauguration, the Olympic Theatre was mainly used as a place of representation to receive illustrious guests and it is only in the mid-nineteenth century that we find evidence of new classical performances in the documents, and the theatre finally returned to its former glory and to its original function from the mid-twentieth century.
The theatre is still used for concerts and classical performances and is a must see in Vicenza that every visitor to the city should not miss.