Della Sala Theatre

Set up in the prestigious Palazzo del Podestà, it did not resist the fierce competition of the other venues in the city which were used for theatrical productions.
Maria Chiara Mazzi

Our journey about the long-gone theatres of Bologna takes us today at the Della Sala Theatre, located on the second floor of the Palazzo del Podestà, which was opened to the public in 1581. The venue, contracted out to private impresarios, offered Girolamo Giacobbi’s “Andromeda,” the first melodrama performed in the city in 1610. For the occasion, it was set up with boxes and decorated by painters of the Bolognese School. 

Palazzo del Podestà, Piazza Maggiore, Bologna

The ticket price was modest, the audience was of varied backgrounds, and the repertoire alternated between pastoral comedies and tragedies, operas in music and stage performances, such “La disputa dei quattro elementi” (1615) of which there remain today precise descriptions. Destroyed by fire in 1623 and reopened the following year, the theatre experienced an increasingly fierce competition from other venues in the city. In order to attract spectators, there were performances considered “pornographic” such as “I Diporti di amore in Villa,” a scherzo drammatico rusticale partly in bolognese, partly in dialect and partly in the Tuscan language,” which was, as expected, a huge success. Between comedies, dramas for music and festivals, the programming continued into the eighteenth century, alternating productions by noble amateurs with works by famous authors, such as Bassani, Galuppi or Orlandini, assigned to prestigious performers such as Anna Cosimi, chamber virtuoso to the Duke of Modena, Marianna Ferretti or Pellegrino Salvolini. 


First floor of the Palazzo del Podestà today, Piazza Maggiore, Bologna

In 1761, however, the city government deemed the venue inadequate for the new requirements and decided to have a new and larger theatre built, leaving it to be attended almost only by university students who, “abusing their permission to attend the theatre, did nothing but talk and throw stuff in the audience.” The end of the Della Sala Theatre arrived: after holding tennis games, cavalry exercises and various events for a little while longer, it closed its doors in 1767, four years after the opening of the new and more splendid Municipal Theater.


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