The Teatro San Cassiano (or Teatro di San Cassiano and other variants) in Venice was the world’s first public opera theatre, inaugurated as such in 1637. The first mention of its construction dates back to 1581. The name with which it is best known comes from the parish in which it was located, San Cassiano (Saint Cassian), in the Santa Croce district (‘sestiere’) not far from the Rialto. It was owned by the Venetian Tron family and was the first ‘public’ opera house in the sense that it was the first to open to a paying audience. Until then, public theatres (i.e., those operating on a commercial basis) had staged only recited theatrical performances (‘comedies’ or ‘commedie’) while opera had remained a private spectacle, reserved for the aristocracy and the courts. The Teatro San Cassiano was, therefore, the first public theatre to stage opera and in so doing opened opera for wider public consumption. In 2019 an unprecedented project, conceived by the English entrepreneur and musicologist Paul Atkin, was announced to reconstruct in Venice the Teatro San Cassiano of 1637 as faithfully as academic research and traditional craftmanship will allow, complete with period stage machinery and moving scene-sets. The project aims to establish the reconstructed Teatro San Cassiano as a world-renowned centre for the research, the exploration and staging of historically-informed Baroque opera.
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