The Teatro Politeama Garibaldi is located in Via Filippo Turati, in the historic centre of the fascinating city of Palermo.
In 1859, a public invitation to tender was issued in Palermo to build a theatre that would be named after Ferdinand II and that could create a significant amount of work for local artists and craftsmen. When, in 1860, following the landing of the Thousand and Garibaldi, the idea was shelved, it took six years before the new construction was entrusted to engineer Giuseppe Damiani Almeyda, who had the task of establishing the city’s first popular theatre. The intention was to provide a new venue for public entertainment that would include the production of comic and dramatic works, operettas, festivals and circus performances.
Work on this amphitheatre outside Porta Maqueda began in 1867 and it was not until the following year that work began on transforming it into a proper theatre, modifying the original plans. It was 1874 when, still incomplete, the theatre was inaugurated with the opera ‘I Capuleti e i Montecchi’.
In 1882 it was decided, upon Garibaldi’s death, to name it after the ‘Italian’ hero, and in 1877 the roof was finally completed. The embellishments were completed in 1891 and it was only then that it was officially opened in the presence of King Umberto and Queen Margherita, during which Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello was performed.
The Teatro Politeama Garibaldi is an important example of neoclassical architecture: think of the imposing entrance with its triumphal arch and Rutelli’s bronze quadriga, symbolising the ‘Triumph of Apollo and Euterpe’ next to which two other horses represent the Olympic Games.
All around are two orders of Doric and Ionic colonnades with strokes of blue, yellow and red in the background, embellished with putti musicians and singers.
Its interior was designed for a maximum capacity of five thousand spectators to spread out over a horseshoe-shaped hall with a double gallery.
On the proscenium a Corinthian colonnade rises all around the bronze bust of Giuseppe Garibaldi himself. Nicolò Giannone, Luigi Di Giovanni, Michele Corteggiani, Giuseppe Enea, Rocco Lentini, Enrico Cavallaro, Carmelo Giarrizzo, Francesco Padovano, Giovanni Nicolini and Gustavo Mancinelli were the artists who worked on the magnificent frescoes.
The exterior was taken care of by Carmelo Giarrizzo, who painted the frieze with horse races.
Giuseppe Enea, Rocco Lentini and Giuseppe Cavallaro instead took care of the passage and rest areas, such as the Hall of Mirrors, the Red Room and the Yellow Room.
Outside the theatre, Damiani designed two candelabra and the Ruggero Settimo Monument.
The Teatro Politeama Garibaldi hosted prestigious artists until 1950; we remember the memorable reception of Puccini’s Bohème, which sent the audience into delirium and was well received after the flop in Turin.
Today it is the Fondazione Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana that is at home at the Politeama Garibaldi, representing an important point of reference for music in the city of Palermo.