Houses & Companies | The Teatro San Cassiano, Venice | Early & Middle Baroque | Opera
When the Teatro San Cassiano, the first public opera house, opened in 1637, the Venetian nobility rapidly decamped from the private homes in which performances had previously been given and rented the best box seats for each opera season. The public had to make do with the lower parterre, or ‘pit’.
The San Cassiano was built and owned by an aristocratic family, the Trons. The first opera staged there was L’Andromeda (1637), with music by Francesco Manelli and libretto by Benedetto Ferrari. Ferrari and Manelli were in charge of production for two years before handing over control to a company led by the composer Francesco Cavalli (1602–76). For the next six years, Cavalli wrote all the operas performed at San Cassiano, except Monteverdi’s Il ritourno d’Ulisse in patria (‘Ulysses’ Return Home’, 1640).
As more and more opera houses opened in Venice – 11 by the end of the seventeenth century – fewer and fewer operas were produced at San Cassiano. Ultimately, the Teatro was upstaged by larger opera houses that were able to accommodate more elaborate performances. Although in decline, San Cassiano remained open for another century until it finally closed in 1807, after 170 years.
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