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Il Teatro: Mecca for Musicians

A string quartet practices in the empty theater.

A torrent of activity filled the interior of one of the richest theaters in Italy. A medley of piano keys pounding, the conductor’s voice shouting in Italian, and the stage crew nailing the final pieces of the set together echoed off the three stories of dark red seats. Above it all rose the booming, operatic voice of a heavy set woman in the center of the stage, rehearsing for her upcoming performance. Suspended from the intricately painted ceiling was the theater’s most ancient and distinguishable item, the old chandelier. It dangled in darkness, waiting for its chance to illuminate every corner of the 127 year old theater.


No, this was not Rome. It was not Florence, Milan or any of the other major Italian cities that such historic and richly decorated theaters are usually located.

The Teatro di Cagli owes much of its prominence and success to something called the brevi residenze program. Established in 1999, the program is the brainchild of theater director Sandro Pascucci. He set up a contract with all of Italy in which important musicians, actors, dancers, and comedians come to Cagli, use the theater to rehearse for as long as they need, and then put on a performance for the townspeople before embarking on their national tours.

But why Cagli? A tiny, relatively unheard of town doesn’t seem like the likely choice for such famous entertainers.

“The theater is very beautiful,” said Maurizia Paglioncini, the assistant director of cultural involvements in the theater. “And the sound system is perfect.”



But why Cagli? A tiny, relatively unheard of town doesn't seem like a likely choice for such famous entertainers.

Above, outside the theater.

Below, a side street view of the theater, a medieval theater can be seen in the distance.

“Basically,” she says with a smile, “It’s a big, grand theater, just in miniature!”


Top: the theater's interior.

Bottom: the foyer of the theater.


Paglioncini, a middle aged woman with a huge smile, knows everything there is to know about the Teatro di Cagli. She sits behind a huge desk in her office in city hall. There are stacks of paper everywhere, causing her to practically disappear in the small office. Her phone rings off the hook, and every five minutes or so, someone new knocks on her door with questions for her to answer. Despite the chaotic atmosphere, the office runs like a well-oiled machine.

Her face lights up with pride whenever the Teatro is mentioned. She can back up her love for the theater too, pointing out the old chandelier, the large stage, the theater bar, and the countless other distinguishable features it has to offer.

“Basically,” she says with a smile, “It’s a big, grand theater, just in miniature!”

Literally translated, brevi residenze means "short residence." The program has helped put Cagli on the map. Only one other theater in Italy hosts something like this—the Teatro Petrella di Longiano, where Pascucci first brought his idea for the Cagli version to life. He saw its success there and decided to replicate it in Cagli.

Before Pascucci’s arrival to Cagli, the theater had been closed for fifteen years. Extensive renovations were made, and new electricity, heat, and equipment, were updated to prevent fire hazards. The theater opened again in 1999, and Pascucci brought his idea to life right away.

“The performers in the program use the theater to get everything they need,” Paglioncini said. “They stay in Cagli for as long as they like, and they have the theater 24 hours a day. They do the anteprima, the first show, here in Cagli. After that, they leave.”



In the past six years, the theater has hosted many famous performers. Among them are famed singers Gianni Marandi, Fiorella Mannola, and the comedian Fiorello.

A slightly lesser known band, Tuxedomoon, described their experiences in the brevi residenze program in their online journal.

“We had an opportunity to get together in Cagli, Italy, as the guests of the renowned Sandro Pascucci…we had two and a half months, from July to September, to compose and record new music, all on the house. The house in this case was another stunning theater, complete with trompe l’oeil frescoes on the ceiling and a piazza full of lovely young things to ogle,” wrote the band’s lead singer.

The performers aren’t the only ones who enjoy their time at the Teatro. The residents of Cagli, as well as those from the surrounding towns, always look forward to the shows.

“The program is obviously well-respected in town,” said Paglioncini. “It’s a way to let Cagli be known to everybody, and to have a famous person here is, of course, interesting and nice…. The theater is always packed on opening night!”

In addition, the program benefits the area economically — one of the director’s main motives for bringing the program to Cagli.

It’s great from the restaurant end, from the hotel end, and from the bar end because it brings money to them,” said Paglioncini.

This isn’t even including the money that’s drawn in from the crowds of locals who flock to the theater to see their favorite performers.

The Teatro di Cagli had a long history before the program was even established. Before the large coral building that stands near the center of town was built, there was another theater in a different part of Cagli. The old building needed renovations, though, and the town instead decided to build a new and improved theater. The theater that stands today was built in 1878, and the old building is now used for offices and a gym.

Antonio Albanese, an Italian comedian famous for his work on the stage as well as the big screen, will rehearse and perform in Cagli this summer. Also, in the fall, an opera company is arriving

These performers will not be coming back for performances in Cagli.

But for a few months, this tiny mountain town provides them with the perfect escape to rehearse in a small atmosphere. And for a few nights, the chandelier will be lit, the red curtain will rise, and the residents of Cagli will get to sit front row while the stars perform.




The Cagli Project 2005
Story by Claire Hoffman
Photography by Brady Fitzgerald
Videography by Philippa Petronius
Web Design by Meredith Hope


“The program is obviously well-respected in town,” said Paglioncini. “It’s a way to let Cagli be known to everybody.”


Above and below: Il Teatro di Cagli


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