Friday, June 14th, 2013...4:54 pm

Theatrical designs by Domenico Ferri

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“Arsenal de Venise”: scene design by Domenico Ferri for Gaetano Donizetti’s Marino Faliero (1835), lithograph (35 x 42 cm.)
In 2010 the Harvard Theatre Collection acquired Choix de decorations du Théâtre Royale Italien (Paris, [1838]; call number pf TS 239.208.5), a rare suite of twelve lithographs by different hands after theatrical scene designs by Domenico Ferri (1795-1878), a Bolognese architect and artist who spent most of his active career in Paris.  All but the final plate are printed on Japanese proof paper and mounted, and the original lithograph front wrapper (dated 1837) has been preserved.
Front wrapper for Domenico Ferri’s Choix de decorations du Théâtre Royale Italien (Paris, [1838])
Throughout the 1820s, Ferri produced set designs for Italian productions of operas by his friend Gioacchino Rossini.  At Rossini’s suggestion, he was appointed in 1828 as a stage designer for the Théâtre Italien in Paris, which produced operas by Rossini and his younger contemporaries Vincenzo Bellini and Gaetano Donizetti.  It was Rossini who commissioned Bellini’s I Puritani and Donizetti’s Marino Faliero for the 1835 season, and most likely Ferri’s designs for these and earlier operas such as Pacini’s Malek-Adel (1828), Bellini’s Somnanbule (1831) and Norma (1831), Donizetti’s Anna Bolena (1830), and Rossini’s own Otello (1816) and Matilde di Shabran (1821).  As few, if any, of Ferri’s original designs have survived, these lithographs represent an important resource to students of scenography during the Golden Age of Italian opera.
“Incendie du Théatre Royale Italien”: chromolithograph (37 x 48 cm.)
Adding interest to the volume is a chromolithograph depicting the great fire that destroyed the Théâtre Italien during the evening of 15 January 1838.  This striking image was produced by Godefroy Engelmann, who just seven months earlier received an English patent for his new lithographic process of printing in three colors; in this example, the image has been heightened by hand with touches of white, yellow, pink, and orange pigment to add vibrancy to the flames.  Three members of the Paris Fire Brigade are seen in the foreground carrying a fire hose, desperate to extinguish the conflagration that rages around them and under the mask of tragedy that looms overhead.

[Thanks to Peter Accardo, Coordinator of Programs, for contributing this post.]
Detail from “Incendie du Théatre Royale Italien”: chromolithograph (37 x 48 cm.)

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