Small theatres make Italian towns

Central Italy is a magical place where feudalism has left its mark in hundreds of small towns and villages in which the lords and communities competed in culture and beauty. There are royal palaces or grand buildings “out-of-scale” for living beings (apart from some such as the great Duomo Orvieto), but the urban centers with buildings in the human dimension still exude harmony and spread prosperity.

Tuscany, Umbria and Marche are regions that are still reaping the benefits of the culture, ‘sown’ hundreds of years ago, that had as its center the local communities. This is why, when we go into a historic center of a village in one of these regions, we feel “at ease”. Apart from a few tourist centers such as San Gimignano, most of these villages enable one to step into in the daily life of the residents and you can experience a creative human dimension.

The creativity is to be found in many different forms of art, from scattered small museums, connected by grouping in an association (www.piccolimusei.com), to over 200 small theaters, some of which are real miniatures. I’m sure many artists in the world dream of creating these scenes in which past, present and future merge and emanate the desire to create together.

Every one of these small theaters is still one of the creative centers of each community and can come back to play a strategic role in the international cultural scene. This is the history of the Teatro degli Avvalorati of Città della Pieve, a center between Umbria and Tuscany, in which the rays of the sun reflected from the nearby Lake Trasimeno give the light a particularly magical aura.

For 11 years the International Opera Theater of Philadelphia, directed by Karen Saillant, has presented a debut performance of a new opera in this small theater and for a month the crew and actors stay in this center sharing with the locals their styles and the quality of life . Karen is now “home” here and everyone knows her. She has catalyzed around her initiative the interest of many local artists and craftsmen.

Upon our arrival we immediately were put in touch with a special cabinet-maker, Antonio Mugnari, who in addition to producing perfect miniatures of the furniture of Napoleon, puts his art at the disposal of the music. Retired, he began making stringed musical instruments that were played with gut strings. He studied the Stradivari instruments and rediscovered the designs of master luthiers from the era before they changed the neck of the violins.

His violins have a shorter neck with less inclination which enhances the natural sound of the strings. His instruments do not produce powerful sounds but they are very harmonious and are perfect for a small theater like that of ‘degli Avvalorati’. Antonio guided us through his studies and his experiments in providing his musical instruments at the disposition of musicians who want to get excited with true original sounds and new sensations, perhaps within the small theater of Città della Pieve.