Teatro Tor di Nona

The Tor di Nona— now a small area in Rome's Rione V called "Ponte", which lies in the heart of the city's historic center, between the via dei Coronari and the Tiber— commemorates a mediaeval tower which stood there. As the Torre dell'Annona it was a medieval stronghold of the Orsini and from the early 15th century, acted as a pontifical prison. Prisoners included Benevenuto Cellini who experienced the dungeon's lightless cells, one of which was known as "the pit", and Giordano Bruno who was imprisoned here before being burned alive in Campo de' Fiori.

When the New Prison ("Le Carceri nuove") was built in via Giulia, Tor di Nona was rebuilt in 1667 as a theatre patronized by Queen Christina of Sweden and the best Roman company. In January 1671 Rome's first public theatre opened in the former jail.[1][2] Filippo Acciaiuoli was the first director. The new pope Clement X worried about the influence of theatre on public morals. When Innocent XI became pope, things turned even worse; he made Christina's theatre into a storeroom for grain, although he had been a frequent guest in her royal box with the other cardinals. He forbade women to perform with song or acting, and the wearing of decolleté dresses. Christina considered this sheer nonsense, and let women perform in her palace.

There are many perhaps unexecuted drawings for it by Carlo Fontana, bound in an album which passed into the hands of Scottish architect Robert Adam, now at Sir John Soane's Museum, London (Concise Catalogue). The theater suffered the fires and rebuildings that theaters are prone to, and was finally swept away when the embankments of the Tiber (lungoteveri) were built in 1888; this section was named Lungotevere Tor di Nona.

A free-standing white marble fountain (1925) memorializes the theater in its late-18th century transformation as the Teatro Apollo, with suitable theatrical masks, and a small trickle of water into a massive sarcophagus, in the somewhat theatrical classical style of Vittorio Emmanuele III and Benito Mussolini. As the Teatro Apollo, the largest lyric theater of Rome, the site witnessed the Roman premieres of two operas of Giuseppe Verdi, Il Trovatore and Un Ballo in Maschera.

Now nothing is left of the original tower nor of the theatre but their name, though Teatro Tor di Nona is a going concern in via degli Acquasparta, presenting works by Luigi Pirandello and contemporary theater.

The quarter was part of a development plan in the forties as part of the fascist demolition strategy in Rome. As in Borgo and Via Giulia, this work was halted by World War II. In the postwar years, although the population had already left the quarter, a strong press campaign saved Tor di Nona from destruction. From that time until the present, the centre of Rome has been protected against further destruction.

During the last years of World War II, the Roman "mercato nero" (black market) was located in the Tor di Nona quarter.

External links

  • Roma Sotterranea: Fountain of Tor di Nona
  • Rome's Historical Districts: Rione V
  • Tevere d'amare web site: photos show the Teatro Apollo
  • Sir John Soane's Museum, Concise Catalogue of Drawings
  • Verdi operas and their premieres; link to website

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