New Theatre / Teatro Verdi

On October 7, 1865, the official opening ceremony of the New Theatre took place with the performance of Verdi´s opera “Un ballo in maschera“ (“The Masked Ball”)...


On October 7, 1865, the official opening ceremony of the New Theatre took place with the performance of Verdi´s opera “Un ballo in maschera“ (“The Masked Ball”)...


The first theatre building in Zadar called Teatro Nobile (Noble Theatre) was built back in 1783, in the capital of Dalmatia of the time, while the building of the second great theatre – New Theatre – was officially opened on October 7, 1865 with the performance of Verdi’s opera “The Masked Ball” (Un ballo in maschera). The theatre was opened on the eve of the feast of St. Simeon, the traditional beginning of the theatre season in Zadar.

The new theatre was a reflection of the splendour and wealth of Zadar at the time. A sufficient number of written documents have been preserved on the design and construction of the theatre which was the biggest and most beautiful on the eastern Adriatic coast. The design and construction of such a building in the mid 19th century brought North Italian historicism to Zadar and Dalmatia, with unavoidable reminiscences of the Renaissance and Classicism.

The building promoters were dr. Šimun Katić, dr. Antonio Stermich and the president of the committee dr. Natale Filippi. In 1863, they bought the Lantana family building n. 414 on Our Lady of the Citadel Square, which, after having been pulled down, acquired an irregular rectangular space with two sides adjacent to military property (Chain Gate, Three Wells’ Square with Our Lady of the Health Park, Arsenal) the south-western and shorter side with Catena Street, and the interior and irregular side with gardens and vacant lots that extended up to the cathedral of St. Anastasia.  


The members of the mentioned committee contacted architect dr. Enrico Trevisanato from Venice who had by that time built a number of theatres (e.g. Teatro dell´Armonia in Trieste). Trevisanato sent the first drawing of the theatre on 18 July, 1863, but the president of the committee, dr. Natale Filippi, who influenced greatly on the appearance of the theatre, proposed changes, corrections and gave suggestions for the box, facade, hall and gallery.

Luxuriously furnished and equipped, the theatre had three halls: theatre, concert and dance halls. The interior was equipped by the best artisans from Venice and Vienna, and the auditorium could accommodate one thousand five hundred spectators.

The construction started on 25 April, 1864, and from the beginning it was intended to be the most representative theatre in Dalmatia. At the time, Split had already had Bajamonti Theatre for five years and a new theatre was being built in Dubrovnik.

The supervisor of the work was engineer Mihovil Klaić, and in 1864 carpenters Francesco Fabrovich and Caprara built the inner construction of the boxes. The interior decoration of the theatre was given to Carlo Franco who, under the direct management of Architect Trevisanato, made the drawings for the wood-carving and other decorations as well as the gilding inspired by the Teatro Fenice in Venice.

Carlo Franco performed the ceiling works of the entire theatre and stage, the workmanship of the stage architrave, pillars and frieze, and then the making of the perforated iron lanterns for lamps, lining of all 75 boxes, decoration of the imperial box and other gild works.


Illustrations were under the charge of Antonio Zuccaro and Carlo Matesheg. Zuccaro painted the Triumph of the Civilization (Trionfo della Civiltà) on the theatre ceiling, and Matesheg made the ornamental decorations according to the drawings of Architect Trevisananato, the painted parts of the ceiling, outer parts of the boxes, inter-floor railing and the flowers of the first row in blue and red background.

Master Leone Bottinelli was charged with the stucco works and he made the caryatids in the concert hall and the decorations in the outer entrance hall.

The theatre opening ceremony took place on 7 October, 1865, evidence of which is the record of Giuseppe Sabalich:

"The outer decorations are in a somewhat Renaissance style. Busts have been placed in five niches at the front of the main entrance facade, above the five main big windows placed on the arcades of the portico... The facade overlooking the Citadel opening consists of the same architecture; the north and south facades have had no processing.

The interior: The entrance hall is very Renaissance. The theatre semi-circle is in contrast to the outer part for it is completely in Moorish style. The rows of boxes are in the semi-circle and they end with a very large gallery. The theatre can accommodate an audience of one thousand and five hundred spectators.”

Sabalich further indicated that the length of the building along the longitudinal axis was 44.5 m, the box width was 9 m, and the stage depth was 10 m.

The concert hall was very refined and could admit four hundred people. The parquet was of particular workmanship with two large chandeliers and three huge mirrors. The main (western) facade faced the present day Juraj Bijankini Street. Five doors lead to the entrance hall and then the theatre atrium where there was a coffee shop, and a sitting room for relaxing and smoking.

According to preserved photographs of the Zadar New Theatre, later called Teatro Verdi (renamed after Verdi’s death), its restrained, Neo-Renaissance exterior was not an introduction to its imaginatively decorated interior. The boxes were particularly decorative, all 75 of them that extended in three rows with 12 boxes on each side.

Teatro Verdi, even though only slightly damaged during the bombing of the Allies during the Second World War, was razed to the ground shortly after the arrival of the partisan army. There are no visible signs or plaques today in Zadar referring to the existence of two big theatre buildings that had marked the musical and theatrical life of the city from the opening of Teatro Nobile in 1783 up to the demolishing of Teatro Verdi in the ‘40s of the past century. Thus a significant Zadar cultural identity had irretrievably disappeared. The New Theatre had not suffered damage that could not have been repaired, but access to the theatre was blocked by ruins. It was abandoned and the last remains were pulled down in 1974.



Source: Marija Stagličić «Construction in Zadar 1868-1918», Zagreb 1988