The restoration work on the Donizetti Theatre in Bergamo lasted almost three years, starting on 5th February 2018, and ending in November 2020 (with only the blocks caused by the pandemic and the staging of the opera L’ange de Nisida on the theatre building site in November 2019 and with minimal changes to the original project).
The restoration and architectural renovation of the Theatre was primarily motivated by the need to comply with safety regulations. The technical aspect was compounded by the fact that the volume of the Theatre itself, apart from the monumental façade, did not respond to the decoration quality of the city’s historic fabric. Therefore, in addition to bringing the Theatre up to standard and rationalising its functions, it was necessary to carry out a global architectural intervention to give the building new life.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE RESTORATION OPERATION
The need to undertake a restoration operation emerged as early as the 1990s.
During the Bruni Administration, an international tender was held for the preliminary restoration project, which was awarded to the Temporary Association of Professionals coordinated by Engineer Nicola Berlucchi – Studio Berlucchi of Brescia.
In the following years, the Tentorio Administration developed the preliminary project to the level of final project and created the operational tool needed to raise funds and for the future management of the theatre seasons. The main problem was financial coverage: the total cost of the operation was estimated at around 18 million Euros, so it was currently impossible to find public funding, except to an extremely limited extent. At the beginning of 2014, therefore, the “Fondazione Teatro Donizetti di Bergamo” (Donizetti Theatre Foundation) was created, with the aim to obtain the funds needed for the renovation. The Gori Administration received the baton and carried out the operation with the newly created Foundation.
The project, drawn up by Studio Berlucchi of Brescia, was entrusted to Fantino Costruzioni SpA (group leader) in a temporary association with Notarimpresa SpA.
The work involved the entire structure and was mainly aimed at creating rooms for the orchestra in the area below the stalls, a mobile orchestra pit, a new building for the dressing rooms, a new ticket office, as well as brand new rooms for the main bar and the public bar in the gallery. Also new are the west wing with offices, rehearsal rooms, catering rooms and activities for the public. All the boxes, the ceiling of the stalls and the foyer have been completely restored.
The executive project consisted of 5 main thematic cores:
- ARCHITECTURAL PROJECT
- RESTORATION PROJECT
- STRUCTURAL PROJECT
- PLANT ENGINEERING PROJECT
- SAFETY AND COORDINATION PLAN
- Architectural restoration to make the building safe and to comply with fire safety regulations. With this in mind, a reorganisation of the basement was carried out for the construction of a new underground water storage tank at Piazza Cavour in order to put a new automatic fire extinguishing system into operation.
- Renewal of the external façades through the search for a formal coherence between the volumes to make the architectural image of the theatre homogeneous and contemporary, respecting but at the same time regulating the historical parts. In particular, the façade facing Piazza Cavour was redesigned.
- Functional renovation: the renovation work involved the functional redistribution of the rooms, the reorganisation of the entrances for the public and operators, the foyers on the ground floor, the connections of all the floors for the public and most of the service areas for the sets at the east and west side extensions, as well as a reorganisation of all the technical areas in the basement. The reorganisation also included the location of the new ticket office.
- Upgrading of the theatre’s air conditioning and ventilation system. The floor slab of the stalls was demolished and rebuilt to create a punctual system of air supply from the floor. The box seats were replaced and repositioned in accordance with fire prevention regulations. The under-stalls area also underwent a radical transformation. The existing stalls seats were replaced by new seats entirely in fire resistance class 1IM with fireproof red velvet upholstery.
- The air conditioning, smoke detection and fire-fighting systems for the boxes were also renewed, in addition to upgrading the flooring and covering materials.
- The offices were reorganised by moving the administrative offices to the extended west wing.
- Reorganisation of the dressing rooms and service areas of the stage to restore the distribution and functional logic that had been compromised by the disorganised work carried out in the past. It was therefore necessary to demolish the body of the building on the east side of the scenic tower and the consequent construction of the new body of the building, which now houses 4 floors of dressing rooms, the tailor’s shop, and some technical rooms.
- Restoration of the theatre hall and the entrance foyer by means of an accurate investigation campaign that allowed the reconstruction of the pictorial stratigraphy of the decorations.
- Optimisation of the acoustics in the theatre. In the context of the restoration, great attention was given to improving the acoustic quality of the theatre hall.
With a cost of approximately 19 million Euros, which was covered by public bodies, including the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, the Municipality of Bergamo, and the Lombardy Region, but also by a significant private contribution (thanks to Art Bonus) amounting to approximately 9.5 million Euros, the total amount of funds made it possible to deal with unforeseen events and to complete further work on the original work plan.
A truly impressive project designed to make the Donizetti a modern Theatre, in line with the most recent safety regulations, but above all a place of aggregation independent of the shows on stage, which the city can enjoy all year round in different spaces.