Cagliari is the city of Sun, a place where its inhabitants are proud to live but also one that fascinates those visiting for the first time. It is a capital city but also has a town feel, it has the seaside but also hills, it is the gateway between Sardinia and the world.
The city, built on seven hills, has kept pace with the modern world without losing sight of its past. Its four historic districts, Marina and Castello, with Stampace and Villanova on either side, represent the truest and most genuine side of Cagliari. They form the oldest part of the city, rich in history, archaeology and architecture, much loved by tourists.
Cagliari today is a cosmopolitan city. It is also the product of its past, shaped by the succession of many civilisations, from Phoenician-Punic to Roman, and then Vandal, Byzantine, Pisan, Aragonese and Spanish, and Piedmontese. It has an international feel because more and more foreigners come to discover it and, often, they fall in love with it.
Those many layers of civilisation, hard to find elsewhere, are also echoed by the city’s cultural buildings, which have borne witness to the many changes in society, to the birth and growth of great artists, as well as to catastrophic events, including fires and air raids, without ever succumbing to death.
In a city of sea and art like Cagliari, theatres can be struck down, but never destroyed or defeated. So many of them have been repurposed and taken different forms, but have continued to provide opportunities to hear stories and see performances.
From the Teatro Civico, completed by Cima in 1836 and bombed during World War II, to the Teatro Massimo, built in the mid-20th century at the behest of the Merello family of Cagliari; from the Teatro Lirico, one of the most futuristic post-war theatres, to the Auditorium of the Conservatory, also appreciated for its solemn architecture, to Sa Manifattura, a former industrial building that has now become a modern venue for cultural, artistic, scientific, entrepreneurial and recreational initiatives.
Cagliari is alive, Cagliari is culture.
NID 2023 Stages
Auditorium of the Conservatory
In 1964, a project was approved for the construction, in the piazza dedicated to Ennio Porrino, director of the Cagliari Music Conservatory in the mid-1900s and an internationally-acclaimed musician, of the Auditorium and adjoining State Music Conservatory “Giovani Pierluigi da Palestrina”. Construction began three years later.
The plan comprised two structures, the “School” and the “Auditorium” integrated into a single building. The School, opened already in 1971 although only completed two years later, was hailed as the most modern and functional of all the conservatories in Italy and among the most notable in Europe, in particular for the excellent sound insulation of the teaching rooms.
The new school aimed to provide more opportunities for the study of music, for which there was strong demand in a city with an artistic vocation like Cagliari, as the enrolment of 700 students immediately testified. The attached Auditorium was the icing on the cake: with 800 seats, it is still the second largest theatre in the city.
The complex, whose solemn architecture is embellished by musical motifs, has made an important contribution to strengthening the musical culture of the capital city of Sardinia.
The Teatro Massimo was built in 1947, following the destruction of the City Theatre (Teatro Civico), in the Castello district, by air raids during World War II.
The theatre was built by converting an old steam mill building on the initiative of local businessman Baciccia Merello, together with entrepreneur Ivo Mazzei, who was well known in the city’s theatre circles. Their plan was to build a cinema and theatre hall and, next to it, an open-air cinema, the Cinegiardino, set in a green space. The new venue was designed by two young architects from Cagliari: Oddone Devoto and Emilio Stefano Garau.
From its inception, it hosted some of the greatest opera singers, such as Maria Callas and Beniamino Gigli, and stage actors, such as Vittorio Gassman and Eduardo De Filippo. In 1960, the theatre gained national prominence when it hosted the final night of “Canzonissima”, the musical TV show linked to the national lottery that earned Sardinia its first live television broadcast.
In the 1981/82 theatre season, in collaboration with the Ente Teatrale Italiano (ETI – Italian Theatre Board), the Teatro Massimo was the birthplace of the Circuito Teatrale Regionale Sardo (Sardinian Regional Theatre Circuit), aimed at bringing national productions to Cagliari and various other towns on the island.
In those same years, the theatre welcomed the Jazz Festival in Sardinia, again to great acclaim. In 1980, partly as a result of hosting the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Cagliari became a major jazz capital. Given the importance of this venue, when the Merello family considered demolishing it, the City authorities offered to take it over, thus saving a structure that had become a symbol of the city’s cultural renaissance.
However, in 1982, the theatre was closed due to problems with the electrical system following a fire. During subsequent renovation work, nine cisterns from the Roman period, lined with earthenware, and a square-opening well linked to an ancient Roman aqueduct were discovered.
After a period of neglect, since 2009 Teatro Massimo has been the permanent home of the theatre season of Ce.D.A.C. – “Centro Diffusione Attività Culturali”. In 2015, the theatre was also the home of theatre company Teatro di Sardegna. In 2022, the theatre passed under the management of Ce.D.A.C.- Multidisciplinary Circuit and the Association for the International Festival “Jazz in Sardinia”.
The main facade faces Via Trento, while the rear overlooks a courtyard. Another side opens onto Via De Magistris, where the current main entrance is also located.
In the late 15th century, along the walls of the Marina district, the Friars Minor Observant built their convent, which was later severely damaged in 1717 following attacks by the Spanish. It was on those ruins that the tobacco factory was built in the first decade of the 19th century, a successful industry thanks mainly to its Tuscan cigars. This flourishing market ensured strong revenues for the State and did not experience a crisis until the 1960s.
The factory was a world apart, a giant city within a city where hundreds of male and female workers made their living. Indeed, it was one of the first factories in Cagliari to provide stable employment and guaranteed wages to employees, including women, who could finally earn decent wages compared to the average wages of the female proletariat at the time.
Eventually, the crisis of the 1990s led to the reorganisation of the Italian production system by the Italian Tobacco Company. Many factories were closed and among them was Cagliari. On 17 December 2001, the last packet of cigarettes was produced and the workers sent home.
The sale of the plant by the State Property Office to a private group was opposed by the Region, which after a long battle in Parliament was finally able to acquire it, and then entrust its management, since 2016, to Sardegna Ricerche. This regional agency pursues public interest purposes such as promoting research, innovation and technological development, business assistance and promotion.
Today, the structure, which has benefited from the city’s regeneration process, shines in the middle of the city centre: the 20,000-square-metre quadrangle, protected by high and impenetrable perimeter walls, is an important site of the city’s industrial archaeology.
And it has found a new identity in the Creativity Factory, a centre devoted to new artistic and cultural productions. The premises are a meeting and discussion place for innovative projects linked to the Mediterranean region. A modern cultural centre, where the memory of what the structure represented for the city remains indelible, as a silent witness to an industrious past, but also as a superb source of inspiration.
The Opera House (Teatro Lirico)
The seasons of the Cagliari Teatro Lirico Foundation are held at the Municipal Theatre (Teatro Comunale), a building inaugurated on 2 September 1993 at the end of a long and troubled period of construction work. The competition for the design of the Opera House, launched in 1964 by the City of Cagliari, received entries from 34 architects, including several big names. After a difficult selection, the project was awarded to Bergamo architects Luciano Galmozzi, Teresa Ginoulhiac Arslan and Francesco Ginoulhiac. But work did not begin until 1971, and the ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in the summer of 1993. In 2002, architect Massimo Zucchi carried out a restyling project, while respecting the original design, on the façade and spectator areas, which also enabled better use of the interior spaces.
The Municipal Theatre is a 5,000-m2 reinforced concrete building of imposing appearance and a roof covered with burnished copper sheet. Inside is the concert hall with 1,600 seats distributed between stalls and two circles, decorated in warm shades of red and gold; a large stage suitable for large productions; a multi-level foyer with floor-to-ceiling windows where lectures and chamber concerts are held; rooms used for rehearsals by the artists, chorus and orchestra; workshops, storage rooms and office space. The theatre overlooks the recently opened public garden “Parco della Musica” (Music Park), where summer outdoor performances are held.
The New “Piccolo Teatro”, along with the new workshops, is in the section of the Cagliari Music Park granted in concession to the Cagliari Opera House Foundation. It has 320 seats divided between stands and stalls. The theatre is ideal for chamber music or small operatic and ballet performances, but also as a rehearsal space for the orchestra, chorus and director, as well as conferences and concession activities.
Reopened in 2021 after remaining shuttered for 30 years, Teatro Doglio has given back to Cagliari a fine venue for performances and cultural events.
Discovered by chance during renovation work on the nearby Palazzo Doglio, it is an architectural gem from the 1960s. Included in the Palazzo Doglio redevelopment project, the reopening of the theatre has revitalised one of the city’s historic quarters.
Redesigned as a contemporary space, Teatro Doglio is a multifunctional venue that has quickly become an important feature of the cultural landscape of Sardinia’s capital city.