San Carlo theatre in Naples - The most ancient theatre

Ranking in the National Geographic top ten of the most beautiful theatres on the planet, the San Carlo Theatre in Naples is also the most ancient in the world to be still active. Its stunning building erected in 1737 by King Charles III of Bourbon concealed a secret passage leading directly into the Royal Palace, so the king would not need to walk down the streets to get to the Royal Family’s stall.

The King also enjoyed the privilege of being the first to applaud or call for an encore. For this reason, each stall was equipped with a mirror reflecting the Royal stall, for everybody to check what the king was doing rather than doing anything at their own initiative.

The horseshoe shape conceived by the architect Giovanni Antonio Medrano was a novelty, later inspiring the construction of the Scala Opera House in Milan and all other theatres around Italy and Europe. San Carlo Theatre in Naples was thus the first Italian-style Opera House and a source of inspiration for future architects. Such an invention came in handy to host an ever-larger number of guests, a hundred years after the opera was first performed in a theatre, or opera house, instead of being reserved for royal and noble families and performed only at their courts. In 1737, the opera was indeed very popular, especially in a city like Naples, boasting a long singing tradition.

Neapolitans were so proud of their San Carlo Opera House that they were amazingly fast in restoring it after a fire destroyed the internal hall at the beginning of the XIX century. The city of Naples made heroic efforts and was able to restore the San Carlo Theatre in only nine months, directed by the architect Antonio Niccolini, who even improved the acoustics of the concert hall, turning it from excellent into perfect.