THE DECORATIVE SCHEME
The decorative scheme of the Donizetti Theatre dates back to 1901, when the task of embellishment was entrusted to Francesco Domenighini, an artist of Bergamo origin and training who specialised in theatre decoration. Domenighini conceived a unitary project for the auditorium, the boxes, and the ceiling; his approach, despite the changes made during the 20th century, is easily traceable in today’s auditorium.
The artist decorated the parapets of the boxes, the proscenium and the proscenium arch with floral motifs, putti, festoons, and faux marble surfaces. For the ceiling of the auditorium, he opted for a perimeter band actingy as a frame for the trompe l’oeil wallpaper depicting the art of music, with a young girl playing the zither.
As part of the wider project for the restructuring of the Donizetti Theatre, the restoration of the decorative scheme was planned. The design team attempted to reconstruct the main changes made to the decorations through extensive historical research and a thorough stratigraphic investigation campaign. The results of this research have outlined a framework that can best guide the design choices towards the conservation of the artistic and architectural value of the building.
Replacing the upholstery in the boxes and halls
The fabrics were supplied by the prestigious Venetian textile company Rubelli. A damask weave of a full and intense burgundy was chosen, on which the lyre symbol is printed. In the new Donizetti Theatre, there are now 2 thousand square metres of completely new decorative wallpaper.
Cleaning the elevations of the boxes in the auditorium
The operation was mainly conservative, involving cleaning and minor additions to the portions that may have been plastered over.
For the elevations of the boxes, a surface removal operation was carried out (careful removal of the layers of paint or colour overlying the original painting) of a large portion of the existing decoration to bring to light the faux marble underneath, so as to reveal the original colours and design.
Conservative restoration of the entrance foyer
The restoration project of the foyer’s decorations involved the removal of the superficial decorative layer using light scraping to bring out the underlying layer characterised by sandy yellow and green tones. During the surface removal phase, the plaster was consolidated, and the painting and glazing were resumed to restore chromatic homogeneity.
Cleaning and restoration of the theatre ceiling
The entire surface of the ceiling was carefully beaten and checked to remove soluble salts from the portions affected by percolation from the roof. It was then necessary to proceed with the pictorial retouching in order to restore the formal continuity of the decoration. In general, the surface of the ceiling was carefully cleaned to remove dust deposits and to minimise imperfections caused by the emergence of shadows from the wooden ribs.