Garibaldi Theatre in San Piero in Bagno
Garibaldi Theatre in San Piero in Bagno
A small theatre existed in S. Piero in Bagno from as early as 1765. In 1900 it was purchased by the "Società di Mutuo Soccorso tra gli Operai ed Artigiani di S. Piero in Bagno" (Society of Mutual Aid of the Workers and Craftsmen of San Piero in Bagno) which dedicated it to Garibaldi (1907) after which it became a focal point for social, political and cultural life in the town. After the extensive renovation that followed the earthquakes of 1918-1919, the theatre was able to host theatre companies, operetta, concerts, and from the early 1930s, cinema as well. In 1953 it was converted into a cinema and then permanently closed in the early 1970s. After many years of abandonment it was donated by the last members of the "Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso" to the town of Bagno di Romagna, which was able to completely renovate it (2001) thanks to funding from the EU, "Romagna Acque spa" and the "National Park of the Casentino Forests". It now functions as a "conference centre" and hosts shows, concerts, film screenings and conferences. The theatre has seating for 136 and space for the disabled; a visible stage area 7.2 metres x 5.5 metres, overall area 7.3 metres x 7.5 metres; electrical system: 35 kW power consumption, 70 kW installed power; 2 dressing rooms for artists, bar areas, a cloakroom, director's area and props storage.
In the "Decima granducale" documents of 1765, mention is made of a theatre in S. Piero in Bagno "with a stage for performances and room below and stalls for the audience, with scenery and outbuildings", located in Via della Posta (now Via del Teatro) and belonging to the "Academia degli Ardenti". By 1886 the theatre was in possession of the "Circolo Popolare Sampierano" which restored it "both for reasons of aesthetics and to guarantee stability and safety", carrying out work so that "the gallery that was above the stalls was replaced with two more levels"; the theatre was lit by oil lamps and candles. In March 1900 it was bought by the "Società di Mutuo Soccorso tra gli operai ed artigiani" of S. Piero in Bagno. The Society's archives show that there was also a building attached to the theatre where the caretaker lived and that the theatre was not in good condition. The first renovation works, i.e. the repairs to the roof, painting and renovation of windows and doors, were completed in the early 1901. In 1904 the theatre was still closed for further work and was only used for "private dances" during the Carnival period. We also know that "the building is not a real theatre but a simple hall that can be used for shows, without stage sets" and "that the gallery above the stalls is made up of material supported by very solid stone columns", that the "proscenium arch" was completely rebuilt in masonry to enlarge the hall and two doors were added which allowed access to the stage from the stalls by stairs. The theatre did not have electric lighting until 1907. The theatre – named after Garibaldi, who was the Society's honorary president - immediately started to host entertainment: in September 18, 1903 there was a "Cinematographic Show"; the puppeteer Brutus Pedua appeared there several times (1907 and 1914), as did the theatre Company "Arte e Diletto" from Santa Sofia and the puppeteer from Bologna, Romeo Montanari. The shows were small, performed by companies from the area or by single actors who gave "poetry readings by authors in Italian or dialect" and clearly show that the theatre lacked a stage and adequate space. The main activities that took place there were dance parties, Carnival parties, the performances of the local band, raffles and school plays. The earthquakes of 1918 reduced the theatre to nothing more than walls that were "standing by miracle". For a while the idea of converting the building to council housing was considered and then in 1920 a Committee was formed to find funding for its renovation. In 1923, the "Cooperativa di Lavoro" completed the work, but there are no documents pertaining to the work done inside; some older residents remember a stage and stalls and two galleries set out in a semicircle or horseshoe. The lower gallery, which was larger and longer, started almost at the stage and was supported in the middle by cast iron columns. The second level – rather grandly known as the loge - rested on the lower level supported by similar columns and was smaller and shorter. Both were open and lined with a carved railing in wrought iron or cast iron. In the few documents dealing with this work, mention is made, in the period between 1923 and 1926, of decorations designed to adorn "the little theatre": the firm "Fattini Giuseppe & C. Florentine painters and decorators" was contacted to depict "the figure of Garibaldi supported by winged Victories, a symbol of victory and art" to be portrayed in stucco above the proscenium arch. Professor Bruno Mazzoni of Forlì was commissioned to produce a sketch, but nothing came of it. Subsequently, Giuseppe Zaghi of the "school of applied art" in Modigliana was given the work of producing decorations and plaster moulds. An interesting anecdote recounts that the artist Armando Spadini, who often came to S. Piero after his marriage here to Pasqualina Cervone, painted a backdrop for a performance by the local amateur dramatics using a broom. Following this renovation, the Theatre (200 seats, buffet and wardrobe) became a success with comedians and theatre companies from all over Italy submitting proposals for performances and repertoires. We still have documents that bear witness to the importance of the theatre ("La troupe Italiana di prosa e canto di Vittorio Fanelli" from Ozzano Taro performed several times, with a pianist, prompter, machinist and wardrobe master and presented a large repertoire of popular songs, arias from operas, duets and comedies. Theatre companies such as "La Compagnia Drammatica della Città di Firenze", "La Compagnia Drammatica del teatro veneto di A. Mezzetti", "La Filodrammatica Ermete Novelli di Cesena", "La Prima Compagnia italiana di prosa D'Origlia-Palmi", "La Compagnia drammatica di stato diretta da Armando Patroni" all gave performances here of popular comedies or costume drama. From the beginning of the 1930s film screenings began to take over, as is testified by the many rental contracts for films from the Istituto Luce, Nova-Film and Metro Goldwyn Mayer. The Florentine firm "Bellandi & Baiocchi" installed a new film projector in 1939. In 1953, after the folding of the Società Operaia, the theatre was renovated: the two tiers of the gallery were removed to make way for a single gallery built in cement. The building was let out on a renewable contract and essentially functioned as a cinema until it finally closed down. The building was left abandoned for many years and was dilapidated and unsafe. It was only recently donated to the Municipality of Bagno di Romagna by the last remaining members of the Società Operaia. The Municipality, together with the "National Park of the Casentino Forests, Mount Falterona and Campigna" has profoundly restructured the building which is now used as a Conference Centre (2001).
Getting there: BY CAR: take the A14 motorway exit at Cesena Nord and follow the E45 road towards Rome until you reach the Bagno di Romagna exit (48 km). Coming from Rome, follow the A1 motorway to Orte and then take the E45 road to the Bagno di Romagna exit (km 265). Coming from Florence, you can choose between two alternative routes: take the motorway to Arezzo then continue along the SS 73 highway to Sansepolcro and from there take the E45 road to S. Piero in Bagno (km 150); alternatively you may take the "historical" route from Florence via Pontassieve, Consume, Bibbiena then across the Mandrioli Pass to Bagno di Romagna (km 88). BY BUS: From Cesena: daily ATR service - From Rome: weekday direct connection to and from Rome run by the SULGA bus company, departing from Fiumicino airport and the terminal at the Tiburtina station. BY TRAIN: 44 km from the railway station in Cesena, connected by the ATR public bus service. BY PLANE: 60 km from Forlì Airport, 80 km from Rimini Airport, 130 km from Bologna Airport.