THE HISTORY OF THE RIUNITI THEATER
curated by Fabio Mariotti
From the book "Project Recovery and Restoration of the Teatro dei Riuniti di Umbertide"
The history of the Teatro dei Riuniti di Umbertide is linked not only to the theater as a building, but also to a literary and theatrical academy that existed in the city since the 16th century. For this reason we will report here parallel news regarding both topics. It must be said immediately that all the documentation produced by the Academy, to which certain "Books of academic acts" certainly belonged, has been lost; most of the news we have comes from the Municipal Archives of Umbertide, from an unpublished typescript by Renato Codovini on the history of Umbertide and from the memories of some citizens.
Among the papers in the Municipal Archive there is a manuscript by a certain Filippo Natali (born in Umbertide in 1837, he was municipal secretary in Gualdo Todino where he died in 1922 (1), entitled: "News on the theater of Fratta (Umbertide) and on 'annexed academy of the Riuniti' and dated November 1883 which passes on valuable information to us.
From it we know of an "investigation dated 7 March 1615 by deed of the Frattense notary Benedetto Santi" concerning our Academy (2). This is the oldest document we have (apart from an act of constitution, but not the first, of the Academy, dated 1614). The deed was drawn up in the presence of eight members of the "Congregation of the Unstable" (3) and of three people who asked to be part of it, to whom permission was granted "having done on their persons and virtues the colloquio et addunanza according to the style of the said Congregation ". At this date the Academy of the Inestables - as it was called until 1746 - already had its own statute and the prospect of "augmenting the said Congregation, so that with the people who are in it, and will enter it for the future, can make progress in virtuous acts as is appropriate ... ". At that time the Academies represented a very free place of exchange, and also rare in a culturally impoverished society. Unofficial poetic productions flourished in them such as satire, dithyrambic and didactic poetry and more generally the Theater; but they were also deputed to the education of the nobility who exercised their qualities here to govern. They had a strong local character which was rarely surpassed and in the long run the quantity of their products came at the expense of quality.
Gradually the stage actions became the main purpose of the academic meetings so that the need arose to have a place to gather suitable for performances. We then moved from simple rooms to small theaters that were first used only by the members of the Academy, thus reflecting all their needs, then they became public places and the Academies themselves in most cases were the "managers". In Umbertide we know that, before the current theater rebuilt in 1808 in the place where it was the ancient one, the seat of the Academy was a room located on the first floor of a building owned by the Municipality, which was accessed by an external stone staircase. In the same building there were the Commissioner's house - of which the room itself was part -, the Archive on the ground floor, the public chancellery and the prison. Unfortunately we have no news on the activity of the Academy until 1746, but we can assume that it had been decreasing to resume only shortly before this date. In fact, again from Natali, which reports a note found at the beginning of the "First Book of Academic Acts", we learn "how they wanted to rebuild the association in 1746, asking not only the use but also the ownership of the theater from the Municipality , ... ". It was also decided to draw up the statute of the Academy (4) "establishing that the Academy should aim at honest and useful entertainment through acting, which consisted of a determined number of people chosen from the civil class who had to pay an annual fee "; arrangements were made for an "Academic Prince", a Depositary and a Secretary in charge of drafting the academic documents to be elected annually. Also on this date, the name of the Academy was finally changed from “Inestabili” to “Riuniti”, probably precisely to establish the desire for change. At that time the members of the Academy were eleven and among them were the most prominent characters of the town: Prospero and Annibale Mariotti (according to Lupattelli the latter was born in Umbertide and not in Perugia, Giulio Cesare Fracassini, the famous castrato Domenico Bruni who sang in the major theaters of Europe (5), Francesco Guardabassi, and some members of the most important families of Umbertide: Ranieri and Bourbon di Sorbello. The new academics Riuniti chose as their emblem the representation of a hand holding three gold cords tied together , and alongside the motto "Difficile solvitur." Regarding the theatrical activity, the Prince was required to stage one or more comedies during the carnival period with interludes of music and sometimes even dance, while in the other seasons the amateur dramatists of the 'Accademia performed in minor representations. From this period we have received the text of two "three-voice interludes": "The slave for love" and "Don Falc one ”,“ to be recited in the Fratta theater ”and published in 1772 (Figs. 1-2); most likely they were sung by the then fourteen year old Domenico Bruni.
Finally, there is a sonnet by A. Mariotti from 1788, again for the
theater of Fratta (6) (Fig. 3).
A curious news also refers to this period
we report from Natali: “By way of curiosity and to show how much
religious spirit crept into the bosom of the young people who then did
delighted in acting, we will notice how in 1754, on 1
February the Theater Academy, on the demand of amateur dramatics,
grants them a free performance, in order to use the proceeds for
to support the souls in Purgatory! Those were the times! How much
unlike our incredulous young men! But to put a little
of water on this boiling fervor, let the bigots know that
the Academy in granting the permit, expressing itself as follows: “As long as
do not pass in example such a protension! ". In 1748, for the
first time, with a certain embarrassment of academics, once
tour company of such "Giovanni Gazzola, histrion" asked to
to be able to use the Teatro dei Riuniti. On the occasion they brought in
scene the characters of Pulcinella, Balanzone and Brighella. From a
list of performances held in the theater from 1759 to 1795
and reported by Natali (7), we mention two famous works: the drama of
Metastasio "La clemenza di Tito" given in 1759 (the first takes place
in 1741) and Voltaire's "Mohammed" given in 1787 (the first dates back
to 1742). It was only in 1783 that the Municipality, having heard the opinion of the Sacra Consulta, granted "for perpetual use of the Accademia de 'Riuniti .... the house where its theater is, ... which house consists of a room which is the theater, and its stalls, and two adjoining rooms to said hall. "(8). From 1791 to 1798 Pius VI for security reasons forbade all events in which people could gather and therefore closed all the theaters of the Papal State. This of course was also the fate of Umbertide's theater. Moreover, as soon as it reopened, it was semi-destroyed on the occasion of a clash between the Pope's troops and a group of rioters from Arezzo who came to support the insurgents of the Tiberina valley, so that it remained closed for another four years, until 1802, when it suffered a first restoration. But at that time a much more important project for the construction of a real theater was already beginning to take shape. It should also be said that years followed in which the town planning of Fratta underwent many changes and innovations including the arrangement of the square, the clock tower, the bridge over the Royal Palace, etc.
Also in 1802 the Academy decided to occupy the three rooms on the ground floor under the theater, and bought the timber for the rebuilding of the roof of the building. In 1805 it was decided to entrust Giovanni Cerrini (9) with the project for the construction of the new theater: this included three orders of 13 boxes each, the stalls, a large stage with adjoining dressing rooms and two rooms for the Academy (10 ). However, in order to reach the number of boxes and the measures established by Cerrini (11), it was necessary that the Municipality also granted a "scio" (passage) that ran between the walls and the building (12) in exchange for which the 'Accademia undertook to maintain the walls.
To get an idea of the greatness of Fratta at that time, just think that in 1826 it had two parishes and 1300 inhabitants, while 8630 were the inhabitants of the whole territory of Umbertide in 1812 (unfortunately we only have these data, which in any case are indicative ).
Between 1810 and 1812 the pictorial decorations were made by the Perugian Giovanni Monotti (13) and by Faina, the same that we see today brought to light and restored by the Guerri e Polidori firm. These are two bands of decoration along the second and third tier of boxes in which the heads of famous dramatic actors are depicted framed by laurel wreaths and interspersed with swans. The ceiling of the stalls was decorated with a painting, also by Faina, representing Talia, muse of comedy (14); today it no longer exists as the ceiling was first repainted and then completely redone. In 1810, Faina also painted the curtain with the story of “Alcide at the crossroads” which, according to those who remember him, was very beautiful. Unfortunately it has been lost in recent years. A letter preserved in the Municipal Archives (15) and written between 1822 and 1823 by the "heads of the families of artists" of Umbertide was addressed to the Apostolic Delegate of Perugia to intercede with the Academicians and the Municipality to finish the decoration of the theater and especially the scenarios, so as to finally make the theater accessible. From the tone of this letter it would seem that the Academicians delayed the completion of the works to not allow ordinary people to enter, however other documents testify that already since 1811 there were performances in the theater. According to Natali, who in this case entrusts himself to the memory of the elderly, the new theater was inaugurated in 1813 or 1814 with Mozart's Don Giovanni; if this were true - and it seems difficult to us - it must have been a truly exceptional performance, given that the same work was given for the first time in Italy in 1811 in Bergamo and Rome, then in 1812 in Naples and in 1814 in Milan (16) .
But even before the inauguration the new theater had hosted the Mosso company which from mid-November 1811 to mid-January 1812 had represented 17 works in prose, including Voltaire and Goldoni (17). The staging of two works by a local historian and professor of rhetoric dates back to 1815: Don Antonio Guerrini (18): “The salt columns” and “ll Pizzarro”. In the same year Domenico Bruni held concerts in the churches of Umbertide. In 1823 the company directed by Luigi Salsilli arrived and staged 34 performances. In 1825 the impresario Gasparo Zannini applied to represent a show with ten dancers in the theater, and asked the Gonfaloniere for a hefty sum as compensation; but the latter, unable to grant it to him, offered him the income from the third-rate boxes and the coffee box office. The following year, however, the Gonfaloniere did not grant the theater to Filippo Troiani's "Compagnia d'opera in musica", composed of a prima donna and two buffi, citing the lack of interest of his fellow citizens for that kind of entertainment as a reason. In this century, in addition to evenings of prose and music, the theater was used for performances by comedians, acrobats and mimes, raffles were organized and dances were given. In 1857, after 45 years, they wanted to renew the pictorial decoration of the theater; the work was entrusted to a painter from Assisi, Augusto Malatesta. To evaluate the realization, we hear the opinion of Natali: "the theater as it was painted by Monotti and Faina, if it could not be said to be splendid, and well decorated, was moreover better than what we see today, reduced to such a poor state in 1857 , certainly self-styled painter Augusto Malatesta of Assisi who made up for the lack of talent with the recommendations of the friars and with the protection of the president of the time, and while I covered the vault of the stalls with a layer of lime, which also in the center contained a painting of some value, on which Talia, muse of comedy was painted, replaced some tracery worthy of appearing in a bedroom and four figures of an impossible anatomy, and of such daring and bizarre movements, as to make us wonder how they can also be painted up there 'plaster. It is true that the heavy swans, the grave crowns and the most grave medallions that framed the busts of great dramatic actors were removed from the bands of the boxes; but what was substituted for that painting I will not say beautiful but less baroque? A coat of white lead was given, which was called marble for derision, small wooden frames were stuck around the windowsills, badly, and a frieze was painted with a faded blue that clashes with the paintings (we will call them so) of the vault and with the heavy plinth featuring a marble, or rather colored cobblestone, neither described nor known by any geologist while above the pillars that separate the boxes he applied three leaves that look like as many butterflies of an unknown fauna. " In the photo of 1916 shown here (fig. 7) the decorations of Malatesta targeted by Natali are probably reproduced, while those we see today are the oldest ones by Monotti and Faina.
In the nineteenth century he was director of the theater for 30 years, the distinguished Perugian historian Luigi Bonazzi, who was also an appreciated dramatic actor.
If until 1867 the offer of music was small, between 1868 and 1881 several musical works were represented: in 1871 "La Traviata" by Giuseppe Verdi (18 years after the first Venetian), brought by one of the most famous entrepreneurs of the moment, Vincenzo Paoli of Florence, who undertook 12 performances, from 10 November to 10 December, with part of his orchestra and the entire company. In 1881 "La Sonnambula" by Vincenzo Bellini was on the bill. However, to stage these works, the theater always ended up going at a loss. For this reason, in 1886 there was a long discussion before deciding to raise the annual quota of the Academicians to 200 lire. A curious news is transmitted to us by the resolutions of the council of 1869. In fact, it was decided to illuminate the theater "with stearic wax" only for the evening of 6 June, "on the occasion of the statute party", the date on which great celebrations were organized in Thicket; on the other hand, the theater was generally gas-lit.
From 1887 to 1890 the theater was closed to carry out works deemed necessary following the provisions on safety in theaters. In 1897 a new regulation came out and the commission in charge of inspecting Umbertide's theater established that it could hold a maximum of 450 people: 200 in the stalls, 200 in the boxes, 50 on the stage. He ordered the opening of two more doors to the outside and a fire extinguishing system with water outlets. The non-compliance of the theater with the new regulations, however, did not prevent the continuation of the activity until 1906, when it was again closed due to an injunction by the Public Security office. In 1910, 271 citizens signed a petition to urge the reopening of the theater, but we know that only in 1913 the restorations were completed. In the same year, a new statute of the Accademia dei Riuniti was drawn up in which it is reiterated that: "The headquarters of the Academy is in the same theater of the Riuniti, which it owns" (article 2), and that "The Society is made up of all the co-owners of the boxes ... "(article 5).
In the years of Fascism, the theater was also called "only after-work cinema" because films were shown there, as well as the representation of operettas and plays by school pupils. But what most people remember are the parties and dances that took place there. This was how we arranged: we had the buffet come from a bar (in the theater there was not one until the sixties); for the lighting each carried one or two acetylene lamps which rested on the sills of the boxes; the audience was freed from the chairs and, to warm up, a demijohn was placed on the stage with a tap that allowed them to draw wine from the orchestra pit where at that point nothing was missing ...
It was at this time that the internal structure of the theater was modified. In the years preceding the 1940s, this cinema destination was somehow made official in the new name of the Society and the Theater: “Teacine”. In the sixties, the Teacine, practically little more than accessible, was taken over by a company that restructured it as best as possible, enlarging the stage and reopening it to the public.
Due to these changes, the acoustics of the hall worsened and the curtain of the Faina was lost. Despite the deterioration of the wall structure, however, the Accademia dei Riuniti has resumed its activity for 25 years and today is made up of a company of thirty amateurs, aged 15 to 60, which brings its varied repertoire to national reviews and participates in exchanges with other European nations. Not only that, but Umbertide has also become the site of an amateur theater festival, “Teatro in Umbria”, which after five years of life is now of international level. All this, at the conclusion of these pages of history, confirms the existence of a tradition and an interest in the theater that is alive and felt in the city which justify the restoration of the building and hope for an appropriate use of it.
1) Filippo Natali, from Umberto I, attended the faculty of law in Perugia and enlisted in the retinue of Garibaldi. He wrote: an unpublished story of Umbertide, “Excursion around Lake Trasimeno”, “History of the Free State of Cospaia” and various things about Gualdo T. (dc: G. Briziarelli, 1959). The manuscript on the theater is found in the Municipal Archives of Umbertide, b.383, Various objects.
2) Umbertide Municipal Archive, Notarial Fund, protocol 482.
3) This kind of appellations were given to the Academies to underline their particular character ...
4) This statute underwent some changes in 1769 and again, under the influence of the new ideas propagated by the French Revolution, in 1808.
5) Domenico Bruni, 1758-1821. He was in Petersburg for three years at the court of Empress Catherine, then in Saxony, Poland, England and France. In 1797 he returned to Umbertide to take care of music schools. In his city he held public offices: Moire and Gonfaloniere. (from Don A. Guerrini, 1883).
6) These texts are kept at the Augusta Municipal Library in Perugia.
7) In 1759 "La clemenza di Tito"; in 1754 "The old disappointed" and "Demetrio"; in 1765 "Pulcinella power"; in 1768 "La letterata"; in 1769 "Sirce"; in 1770 "The punished miser"; in 1774 "Pulcinella fake gambler"; in 1776 "Pulcinella with the three wives" and "La finta malata"; in 1778 "The wife, despair of the husband and the guardian"; in 1783 "The Madonna ..."; in 1787 "La grotta delle mummie" and "Il Moometto" by Voltaire; in 1795 "The corsair in Marseille" and "The guilty woman". Almost all of these theatrical compositions were staged with interludes of music for four or more voices and often with dance. (see Natali manuscript).
8) Umbertide Municipal Archive, notary Vittorio Paolucci, prot. 862.
9) We know of Giovanni Cerrini that in Umbertide he also made the bridge over the Palace (designed in 1804 and finished in 1814), a project for a bell tower above the tower of the fortress and various other works.
10) Umbertide Municipal Archive, notary Tommaso Paolucci, prot. 923/4.
11) Cerrini had "compared them with the width of the boxes of the theater recently built in the land of Panicale".
12) In this regard, it should be remembered that the two buffered arches, but left in view by the current restoration, located under the stage on two walls that form a 90 degree angle, created a passage in the corner of the building that allowed the continuation of the " scito ”mentioned above (even the building adjacent to the theater, originally, did not reach up to the wall).
13) Giovanni Cerrini and Giovanni Monotti attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Perugia together and in 1791, as a drawing exam in the class of Prof. Baldassarre Orsini, they presented a project for a choir chapel in the Cathedral of Perugia with which they obtained the first prize.
14) The muse Talia is generally represented with a cartouche, a viola or other instrument and from the seventeenth century. even with a mask.
15) Umbertide Municipal Archive, b.28.
16) The following performances were: in Turin in 1815, in Florence and Bologna in 1817, in Parma in 1821, etc.
17) Here is the list of those works reported in Codovini's manuscript: November 14, 1811: The knight of honor, by Mr. Avelloni. 16 said: La Semiramide, by Mr. Voltaire, translated by Mr. Cesarotti. 17 said: The madman for love, unpublished. 17 said: Carlotta and Werter, by Mr. Sagrasti. 19 said: The Diogenes, by Mr. Chiari. 20 said: The Geneva of Scotland, tragedy of Mr. Miller, 21 said: Clementina and Dalmanzi, of Mr. Avelloni. 23 said: Justice reaches underground, an unprecedented drama. 24 said; The mirror of obstinacy, unprecedented. 25 said: The jealousies of Agapito and Silvestro, of Mr. Giraud. 26 said: The fraternal reconciliation, by Mr. Zozebue. 27 said: The Persian bride, by Mr. Goldoni. 28 said: repetition of "fraternal reconciliation". 30 said: Replica of Voltaire's “Semiramide”. December 1st: La Zaira, by Mr. Voltaire. 3 said: S. Francesco al campo di Corrodine, unpublished. 4 said: (illegible), by Mr. D'Armand. 8 said: The banquet of Baldassarre, by Mr. Dirghieri. 10 said: The conversion of St. Margaret of Cortona, unpublished. 11 said: replica of the aforementioned.
18) Don A. Guerrini (1780-1845) was a distinguished scholar, professor of rhetoric in Umbertide, he wrote "History of the land of Fratta" published, unfinished, after his death, in 1883. (See the biography that makes it Antonio Mezzanotte as an introduction to the aforementioned book).
From the book "Project Recovery and Restoration of the Teatro dei Riuniti di Umbertide" - Publishing theme, 1990 - The history of the Teatro dei Riuniti, edited by Flavia di Serego Alighieri
- Don A. Guerrini, History of the land of Fratta from its origin to the year 1845, Città di Castello, tip. Tiberina, 1883.
- G. Brizziarelli, Umbertide and umbertidesi in history, Città di Castello, 1959. R. Sabatini, Umbrian theaters, Perugia, 1981.
- B. Porrozzi, Umbertide and its territory, Città di Castello, sd. Theaters, entertainment venues and academies in Montepulciano and Valdichiana, Exhibition catalog, Montepulciano, 1984.
- Municipal Archive of Umbertide
- Renato Codovini, History of Umbertide - sec. XIX, unpublished typescript.