PALLADIO, Andrea
(b. 1508, Padova, d. 1580, Maser)

View of the "scaenae frons"

1580-83
Photo
Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza

The Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza was commissioned from Palladio by the Accademia Olimpica, of which Palladio was a member. Palladio's theater was in part inspired by the ruins of the ancient Roman theater in Vicenza and other Roman theaters he had visited, as well as by his study of Vitruvius's comments on ancient theaters. The inauguration of the theater, in 1585, featured a performance of Oedipus rex by Sophocles, translated into Italian and complete with music composed for the chorus by the organist of San Marco in Venice.

The permanent stage setting was designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi. It is based on the ancient Roman 'scenae frons'. But Scamozzi's arrangement of columns, statues, tabernacles, and reliefs follows no exact ancient model. The three central openings lead into radiating streets that seemingly terminate at a vast distance from the stage; this illusion is created by a rising pavement and the rapidly diminishing height of the buildings that line these avenues. But these Renaissance palaces are only a few meters deep, and the streets rise up as the rooftops descend.