THEATRE | The Politeama of Palermo, prestigious “theatre of the people”

In Palermo, Piazza Ruggero Settimo has been renamed by citizens as Piazza Politeama. Here, halfway between the old and the new city, there’s the Politeama Garibaldi Theatre, one of the most beloved monuments of the city. A walk in Palermo can certainly start from this square, dominated by the imposing structure inspired by Rome’s Colosseum.

The construction works of the Politeama of Palermo

The initial project included the construction of a large outdoor daytime amphitheater; therefore, in 1865 a contract was signed with the Galland company and work began two years later. In 1868 there came the idea of creating a roof, so as to transform it into a theater hall to expand the offer with music and prose performances.

On June 7, 1874 the Politeama was inaugurated, although it still lacked the covering, staging I Capuleti e i Montecchi by Vincenzo Bellini. In November 1877 the metal roofing was finally made by the Oretea Foundry. 

In 1882, after Garibaldi’s death, the theatre changed its name to Politeama Garibaldi. The term “politeama” indicated a theatre that offered a varied programming, ranging from various types of shows. Finally, in 1891 it was enriched with further shows, realized on the occasion of the great “National Exhibition” held in Palermo. In that year there was the official opening at the presence of King Umberto and Queen Margherita, who were able to attend Verdi’s “Otello”.

In 2000, for the G8 held in the city, the polychrome Pompeian decorations of the loggias were restored. Since 2001 the Politeama can boast to be the seat of the Sicilian Symphonic Orchestra.

The structure of the Politeama

The entrance to the Politeama consists of a triumphal arch in neoclassical style and a colonnade on a double floor, reminiscent of the appearance of the Colosseum.  Above the arch stands the “Triumph of Apollo and Euterpe”, a bronze quadriga flanked by a pair of horses and riders representing the Olympic Games. The entire sculptural group is made of bronze.

trionfo di apollo ed euterpe
Triumph of Apollo and Euterpe

Unlike the Teatro Massimo, characterized by an elegant and majestic style, as well as intended for a more aristocratic audience and mainly for the representation of operas, the Politeama has a less lavish style. In fact, it was designed for a more popular audience, which does not disdain operettas, concerts of contemporary music, pop music and comic shows. In this regard, the hall has a horseshoe shape, which originally had a capacity of 5,000 spectators, such a large number to enhance the social function of “theatre of the people” with which it was conceived.

The Politeama Parterre

After admiring the outside, all you have to do is attend one of the many shows in season or, alternatively, admire the interiors of the halls and the audience through one of the many guided tours organized and proposed throughout the year.

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