The dilapidated state of the Teatro Comunitativo (Community Theatre) prompted the municipal administration to start building a new theatre in 1838, in what was then the “slargo degli Svizzeri”, now Piazza Garibaldi. On 15 May 1852, the official opening was held with Meyerbeer’s Roberto il diavolo, directed by Giovanni Nostini, starring Adelaide Cortesi, Marco Viani and Feliciano Pons, immediately followed by the ballet La zingara, with the étoile Augusta Maywood.
The construction of the building was entrusted to the Venetians Tomaso and Giovan Battista Meduna, who had recently completed the restoration of the famous La Fenice Theatre in Venice. Not dissimilar to the Venetian project, the result was a neoclassical building with a highly scenographic layout.
The entrance hall, flanked by two rooms that were already intended to house a trattoria and a café at the time, accompanies the visitor to the grand staircase leading to the stalls and boxes.
Originally, the semi-elliptical theatre hall had four tiers with a total of twenty-five boxes and a gallery. The stalls, on the other hand, were located on a sloping plane, less extensive than today, which gave more space to the proscenium and the orchestra pit.
The neoclassical decorations by the painters Giuseppe Voltan and Giuseppe Lorenzo Gatteri are also Venetian.
Over the years, the theatre has hosted artists and personalities from all over the world, from Gabriele D’Annunzio to the “divine” Maria Callas, who performed La forza del destino here in 1954. The theatre is now a leading force in the city’s cultural programme.. The concert, opera, ballet and drama seasons are very intense between autumn and spring, while in summer it is the official venue for the main opera events of the Ravenna Festival.
Between 2018 and 2019, another major investment was assigned to technological innovation, with the implementation of a motorised platform that allows the orchestra pit to reach variable heights in relation to the stage and stalls.