The Donizetti Theatre in Bergamo has a complex history. The Donizetti Theatre in Bergamo has a complex history. It was founded in the 18th century, initially taking the name of its builder, Bortolo Riccardi, a silk producer and merchant.
In the heart of Lower Bergamo, the ancient Sant’Alessandro Local Fair was held, a large annual market whose centre of gravity was today’s Piazza Dante, where there was a vast brickwork quadrilateral with small shops arranged in rows. The complex was a reference point for business trading, a meeting place, and a place of entertainment.
It was on the site where one of these temporary theatres was usually erected that Bortolo Riccardi a member of a lively and enterprising Bergamasque family of merchants, planned to build a permanent theatre in masonry with a wooden roof, even though to do so he had to circumvent the city regulations and those of the Maggiore Hospital, the institution that owned the land on which the Fair was located, which imposed the characteristics of temporariness. With decision and unscrupulousness, Riccardi laid the stone foundations and began to erect the brick pillars. To continue the construction of the theatre, it was necessary to sell the boxes; the purchasers of the time, as in large cities, were members of the great noble families, sometimes of the upper middle class.
Riccardi did not wait for the completion of the structure to use the theatre, which for the time being had no name (it was called Teatro Nuovo al Prato di Fiera or Teatro Nuovo or Teatro di Fiera): it was built piece by piece amidst controversy and financial straits but was used for performances well before the official inauguration.