THE ACADEMY’S MOTTO
During the 17th century, many academies that were developing had to satisfy certain requirements, among which were having a name, a motto, and a Patron Saint. In the case of Teatro Grande, Accademia degli Erranti chose Saint Catherine of Siena as their protector and adopted the crescent moon symbol surmounted by the motto Non Errat Errando. This sort of “slogan” acquired even more meaning when it was also added over the entrance of the academy’s headquarters.
Hic reparatis Hephesi ruinis / Cynthia comitata musis vallata Amazonibus / non errat errando. /
Haec si cupis intueri quis quis es / uno dempto Herostrato / ascende viator.
The sentence is intentionally written in emphatic Latin and the reference to the Greek myth of Cynthia (Diana in Latin, a goddess identified with the Moon) provides the fundamental principles of the academy. Some argue that the reference to the myth of Diana derives from the fact that in the St. Faustino monastery area, old headquarters of the Accademia, there was once a Roman temple dedicated to Diana. So, as Cynthia fled from the burnt debris of Ephesus temple and – accompanied by the Amazons – found a shelter where to start her own activity again, the academics did the same by leaving their first residence to establish their final headquarters in this new place. “Errare” means wandering but also being wrong, however here it is to be interpreted positively, as a way to start again and gain more experience from past lessons to improve in the future. Therefore, those who want to learn more – except those who deny the importance of the arts and of intellect, as Herostratus did by setting fire to Diana’s temple – are invited to “ascend”. This verb has both a literal meaning (go up the stairs of the academy) and a metaphorical meaning that suggests the possibility for those who go to the academy to increase their knowledge, culture, and artistic vision.
GAMBLING IN THE FOYER
At the beginning of the 19th century, the Foyer and its adjacent rooms would often be used for entertainment and leisure activities. Gambling was reserved to higher rank French officials of the Grande Armée who remained in Brescia after the Italian Campaign.
Reading the “Rules for Gambling in Brescia’s Foyer” is really interesting. The document was written in 1810 specifically to regulate behavior during these nights and is still preserved in the Theater archives.
MADAME BUTTERFLY’S BEGINNINGS
Giacomo Puccini chose the subject of his 6th opera after he saw an 1898 tragedy by the same name written by David Belasco and played in London in July 1900. Although the authors had great confidence and expectations, Madame Butterfly was a resounding fiasco at Teatro La Scala in Milan on February 17, 1904. This forced the author and editor to immediately withdraw the score and carefully review the composition to make it leaner and more balanced. This new version of Madame Butterfly was received with enthusiasm at Teatro Grande in Brescia only three months later, on May 28, 1904. Even King Vittorio Emanuele the Third attended the performance. From then on, Madame Butterfly enjoyed a second, successful existence.
The local news at the time wrote: “…Puccini yesterday won its bet, triumphantly. Seven encores, twenty-five calls on stage… the theater was extraordinarily full … the boxes were crowded… an enchanting sparkle of beauties, diamonds, lace … only rarely do you see such immediate success… justified mainly by the intrinsic value of the opera, but also by its execution which couldn’t have been better….”
Afterwards, Puccini thanks the Teatro Grande management: “Brescia, cultivated and kind, has already welcomed me twice in ways that cannot be forgotten. I would like to share my emotions with the audience and thank from the bottom of my heart my friend Mascheroni, the valuable and zealous interpreters of Manon, and all those who were so kind to give me a precious, darling souvenir. I don’t feel I can measure up to this task so I ask this honorable administration to pass along this message, and I thank them for everything.”
The Teatro Grande Foundation has dedicated one of the rooms by the foyer to this important event. This room is now called Butterfly Room and contains some historical memorabilia of this first successful performance.
Theaters had strict guardians-doormen responsible for controlling the entrances so that only noble and authorized people could access the building. These people had to wear the “bautta”, a mask that could only be taken off – partially or completely – when inside. The current ushers are still called “maschere” (masks) because of their original function.