The Social Theatre was instituted in 1780 from the initiative of a group of nobles and bourgeois people from Amelia. In that period, Amelia was a flourishing village belonging to the State of the Church, with centuries-old cultural traditions. This group got together in order to build a new Theatre. The 23rd of February 1782 the foundation of the “congregation” took place, officiated by the Marquise Orso Orsini, with the participation of the first 25 members.
According to some sources, the management of the project and the works were assigned to the architect Giuseppe Mattei of Rome, while according to others, they were assigned to the Count Stefano Cansacchi of Amelia, an esteemed architect even beyond the confines of the Papal State and a representative of the Academy of Design of Perugia. Giving credit to this last hypothesis, during the planning of the theatre, it is possible to suppose that Cansacchi had been assisted by the very young Giannantonio Selva (Venice 1751- 1819), who he met during the academic meetings of Perugia and that realized the famous theatre “La Fenice” in Venice, just ten years later.
This theatre is extraordinarily similar—in architectural style, structuring and design – to the theatre of Amelia, even if no documentary evidence exists that can support the conjecture that the project for the Venetian building comes from the model of Amelia. Several modernization and restoration interventions took place over two centuries. In 1823, the orchestra pit was opened to host an instrumental group and to respond to the new needs of Lyric Opera, that required the presence of a considerable number of orchestrals.
In 1866, two big statues, situated to the sides of the proscenium as decoration, were removed and the six current proscenium boxes were built in addition to the 44 already existing ones, so that the theatre now has 50 boxes that are distributed in three orders ( 17 for each order, with the central space of the first order that is occupied by the entrance door); since that moment, the theatre had 400 seats, divided between parterre, boxes and the gallery, placed high at the last level. Between 1880 and 1886, new intense liberty decorations were executed, assigned the execution of the frescoes, that still decorate the ceiling and the foyer (entrance hall used during the show pauses), to the Perugian Domenico Bruschi (Perugia 1840 – Rome 1910), a celebrated artist at that time for his interventions in other Umbrian theatres, among which the “Caio Melisso” of Spoleto, the “Clitunno” of Trevi, the “Giuseppe Verdi” of Terni. Of the same artist is the majestic tarpaulin, perfectly intact, that is still used as stage curtain, representing the legendary Siege of Amelia by Frederick I Redbeard (an episode that is without any historic confirmation).
It is placed side by side with the other precious 18th century stage curtain, known as “comodino”, representing a false loggia put into perspective, that luckily is preserved as well. The last restoration finished in 2006 and it permitted the recycling of the external area that is adapted to outdoor theatre (220 seats) including the overlook underlying the splendid wide valley as well as a new foyer duly equipped with all kinds of comforts, in the basement. Amelia’s Theater is one of the rarest examples of what remains of 18th century theatres, all made in wood, from the structures to the scenic machines and mechanisms, that are still perfectly functioning: for this reason, the Ministry of Cultural Heritages proclaimed it a monument of a particular historical and artistic interest. The Social Theatre is still today property of the Theatrical Society, from which it takes the name, which was founded for the purpose of its construction. It hosted almost all the major lyrics of the Italian and European repertoire with the participation of the most important lyric opera artists, not counting the symphonic orchestra and chamber music performances. Its wide stage is also worth mentioning, used for some movie shots: it has been calculated that 42 scenes between movies and television dramas have been shot here and some of them are very popular with the Italian audience like The adventures of Pinocchio by Luigi Comencini with Nino Manfredi (1972) and The Marquise of Grillo by Mario Monicelli with Alberto Sordi (1981).