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Teatro Malibran

Venice's second theatre

Inside the Teatro Malibran

In the 1600s, as Venice's trading empire collapsed, the art-loving Grimani were one of the noble families to invest in theatre. In 1678 they built this one (originally named the Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo for the nearby church) on the site of Marco Polo's family palazzo. With its with five levels of ornate boxes, it was the grandest theatre in Venice until the mid 18th century, and was one of the few to survive the French occupation.

It gradually decayed and received its current name in 1835, after the most famous mezzo-soprano of the day, Maria Garcia Malibran, sang for two evenings and refused to take any payment, telling the manager to spend her fee on repairing the building

The theatre was rebuilt in the 1920s, and in the 1980s the Fenice initiated a series of dance performances in the theatre, including premieres by Pina Bausch. It was purchased by the Venice City Council, and after the Fenice burned in 1996, it was the most important theatre in town and restored. An enormous underground basin was dug to collect water that would have filled the theatre during a flood. State of the art stage installations were added, and the interior decorations restored, notably the splendid curtain by Giuseppe Cherubini.

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Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by Andrea Sartorati