The Ridotto

The Teatro Grande Foyer, usually called Ridotto, is maybe one of the most noteworthy examples of 18th century architectural splendor in an entertainment building.

Every modern theater has a foyer, which is a smaller room adjacent to the actual theater room where performances are held, and which was used for gambling and smoking especially in the 19th century.

Today, the audience waits in the foyer before the show and during intermissions. Another room nearby offers bar service.

The Foyer was once the Erranti Room and its construction took over three decades. In 1739, the demolition of the 17th century room led to a discussion about how to reorganize the academy’s headquarters. The Erranti’s intention was to have a separate room for public ceremonies which would make it possible to build more boxes to rent.

After several problems and delays, on February 23, 1760 the administrators decided to start building the new room plus two adjacent rooms and called architect Antonio Marchetti for this project. The structure was finished in 1765. Venetian painters Francesco Battaglioli and Francesco Zugno were called for the decorations. In 1771, the room was completed with crystal lights and subsequently with twenty-four wooden chandeliers engraved by Beniamino Simoni. On March 22, 1772 the academic room was finally opened while the side rooms were built about ten years later and painted by Francesco Tellaroli (between 1789 and 1790) and local painter Giuseppe Teosa (1811) with gambling scenes that used to take place in this room during the Napoleonic Era.

The current room is different than Marchetti’s original room: during the 19th century, several restoration projects took place and make it more difficult to interpret this room. Today, the Foyer has a series of giant order pilasters along its perimeter between which are loggias with very unique pierced parapets. The room has a porch and upper galleries, and trompe-l’oeils in the side loggias make them look as real galleries.

It is clear that the intention is to expand the space and create a versatile location that can be adjusted according to the different functions of the room: meetings and conversations, ceremonies, and gambling. Notwithstanding the decorations added by Antonio Tagliaferri’s “restoration” in 1894 (mirrors, plaster putti by Francesco Gusneri, and the painted statues by Bortolo Schermini), the Foyer remains one of the most interesting 18th century rooms in Brescia thanks to its frescoes and architectural structure with loggias.