The ‘Teatro Pagliano’, which assumed its current name, ‘Teatro Giuseppe Verdi,’ in 1901, was built during the Grand Ducal period in Florence on the former site of the fourteenth century Stinche Prison. During the nineteenth century, Florence – which was also the capital of Italy – witnessed the construction of many theaters. The Teatro Verdi is the only one still in operation, having lived through a century and a half of history and tremendous change. For Florence and the whole Tuscan region, this theater represents the focal point for special events and occasions, musical events, and popular performances. The Teatro Verdi was the dream project of Girolamo Pagliano. Pagliano was a former baritone and successful pharmacist who invented an elixir for long life. One of the seven largest theaters in Italy, its importance was clear from its inauguration on September 10th 1854. Viscardello, the original title of Verdi’s Rigoletto, was the theater’s inaugural performance. For many years under Pagliano’s management, the theater staged repertoires and operas directed by Pagliano himself with great success and acclaim. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the theater hosted performances that echoed the sentiment of patriotism permeating the country, inviting famous singers and actors to perform for important audiences which even included King Vittorio Emanuele II.
In 1865 the theater was almost destroyed by a fire. It then changed ownership several times. After World War II, the theater was revitalised under Castellani’s ownership; it staged many popular operettas and many of the most famous actors of the twentieth century were invited to perform. The first important restoration of the theater was overseen by Nello Baroni and Maurizio Tempestini in 1950. During the glamorous 1960’s, the theater hosted pop, rock, and international jazz stars, as well as the stars of comic theater and revue. Season after season, Teatro Verdi acted as a catalyst for music and theater performances. It also hosted the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, cinematographic exhibitions, and ballet. The 1966 flood in Florence magnified the theater’s need to update to safety codes. In January 1998, its ownership was transferred to the Fondazione Orchestra Regionale Toscana. It became the site of the ORT rehearsals and concerts while still maintaining a diverse and culturally open theatre repertoire attuned to the needs of its different audiences. In October 2004, for Teatro Verdi’s 150th anniversary, the Foundation performed a series of major renovations to improve the acoustics, aesthetics, and reception area. The floors of the auditorium and of the gallery have been completely replaced with wood, and the new distinctly red seats have been specially designed by Poltrona Frau. In October 2005, a concert by the Orchestra della Toscana and Salvatore Accardo, was held for the inauguration of the new curtain of the Teatro Verdi. The curtain was realized with the design of the decorations and colors equal to those of the previous one that was mounted at the beginning of the 1950s. This was also produced by Poltrona Frau. The project was made possible thanks to the contribution and sector investments of the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze and the Cultura della Regione Toscana.