«A curious character is imprisoned in the theater, to still breathe the dust of the stage, the scent of powder, to listen to romantic melodies… and to remove the curtain if the show is not to his liking. Angelino, the ghost of the theater, took his role seriously and his performance is not over» (Igea Frezza, Pagine dell’Umbria)
Almost all theaters have their Phantom of the Opera. The Social Theater of Amelia is certainly not the Teatro Massimo of Palermo, where the soul of a mysterious nun is wandering, however, it can still boast the presence of a nice ghost that runs quietly between one upper tier box and another. It’s Angelino, or as he was renamed by the guardian of the theater, who always has a lot to do: when he turns off the lights the ghost has fun to turn on them again and when the guardian turns on the lights Angelino turns them off. The legend tells that the ghost is afraid of the public and, therefore, disappears at each show. But he is not afraid of the artists. «On the contrary, it seems that he likes very much to attend the rehearsals and that he follows them hidden in the shadows in the second row of boxes. Some actor claims to have seen him pass, wrapped in the cloak up to the nose and with a wide-brimmed hat, behind the entrance of the audience as he climbs to the upper floors, and someone else says that when Angelino sits on this or that box, he frees himself of his cloak with a majestic gesture, making it float in the air and throwing it behind his shoulders».
The Social Theater was born from the efforts of a group of nobles and bourgeoises of the city of Amelia. The city at that time was a flourishing center of the Papal State, which in 1780 met and decided to build a new theater. On 23rd February 1782, the congregation of foundation was held, presided over by the Marquis Orso Orsini and was attended by the first twenty-seven members that soon became thirty-six. The project, as well as the direction of the works, were entrusted to Count Stefano Cansacchi, an architect highly esteemed even beyond the borders of the State and exponent of the Perugia Academy of Design. Also belonging to the same Academy, was the very young Gian Antonio Selva who, ten years later, created the Gran Teatro la Fenice of Venice, which was extraordinarily similar to the amerino model not only in architecture, but also in setting and decoration.
Over the years there have been a lot of works of restoration and modernization. In 1823 the orchestra pit or mystic gulf was opened to meet the demands imposed by the new model of opera. Then, in 1866 the two large statues that the Cansacchi had put as an ornament of the two sides of the proscenium were eliminated and six proscenium boxes were built, which, in addition to the pre-existing fourty-four, brought the total number of boxes to the current fifty, distributed over three orders (seventeen for each order, with the central space of the first order occupied by the entrance door) in addition to the large gallery.
Between 1880 and 1886 Domenico Bruschi, an artist famous for his many works in other theaters, including the Caio Melisso of Spoleto, was called to decorate and fresco the hall. To him we owe also the canvas with the legendary siege of Amelia by the Barbarossa, flanked to the other dating back to the eighteenth century, and the lively fresco that decorates the vault of the main hall. The last restoration completed in 2006 allowed the recovery of the outdoor space adapted for outdoor theater (about two hundred twenty seats) which also includes the underlying belvedere which opens onto the valley. The underground was used as a hall equipped with all comforts.
The Amerino theater is one of the rare examples of 18th-century theater made entirely of wood, from the structures to the still-functioning scene mechanisms. The theater, still owned by the same company that was born just for its realization, has hosted all the major operas of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century Italian repertoire, with the participation of the greatest Italian and foreign artists, as well as performances of symphonic and chamber music. In addition, the large stage (of considerable height) was used as a set for fourty-two films including Il Marchese del Grillo with Alberto Sordi and The Adventures of Pinocchio by Luigi Comencini, with Nino Manfredi. The Ministry of Cultural Heritage has declared the Amelia Theater as a monument of particular historical and artistic interest.
I. Frezza, Pagine dell’Umbria, Perugia, Morlacchi publisher, 2009
S. Petrignani, Care Presenze, Neri Pozza, 2004
A. Ghedina, Guide to the ghosts of Italy. Where to look for them and find them, Odoya, 2017