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A space for light comedy shows

Politeama Theatre

A space for light comedy shows

It was the era of opera and the invention of the brothers Lumière had just reached the city. The gardens were being transformed into outdoor arenas and people felt the need for a modern theatre that would offer quality performances accessible to all, and not just to the elite. This was the context that gave rise to the Politeama Theatre at the beginning of the 20th century. The local man behind the largest theatre ever seen, where people could nourish their spirit after work in the flourishing textile industry, was Bruno Banchini, who had made a fortune as a successful player of "pallone col bracciale", the ballgame which was all the rage in Italy throughout the 19th century, a bit like football in our days.
In 1906 Banchini bought Palazzo Leonetti in the very central via Garibaldi and got the work started. Construction of the theatre took eleven years to complete.

It required substantial investments as the building was so large that, in order to build the roof, it was necessary to look for innovative techniques and materials in Rome. To a design by the young engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, one of the first to use reinforced concrete in Italy, a stunning gallery was built, as well as an imposing dome that can be opened by means of two electronically-controlled half hemispheres.
The theatre, which could accommodate over 3000 people, was inaugurated  in 1925 with a performance of Puccini's Tosca. In its 80 years' history it has hosted not only great opera works, but every kind of show - from plays to cabaret, from great symphony concerts to pop music and cinema - as well as local recreational events: from Carnival to boxing matches.

The seats used to be removed for dance parties and many Prato couples met and fell in love on these occasions.
In the 1950s the theatre was downsized to 1500 seats and turned into a cinema theatre. Following the crisis in the cinema industry and new regulations about installations, the Politeama closed in 1985 and ran the risk of being turned into a garage or a shopping centre. Then something happened that was unique in the Italy of that time: the city mobilized to ensure that the theatre would receive a new lease of life. The case was mentioned on a popular television programme, the Maurizio Costanzo Show, and came to national attention. Finally, after renovation work, on 2 January 1999 the curtain rose again and Nervi's dome opened again to the notes of Tosca, as for the 1925 inauguration.

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