In central Veneto, where many rivers run, lies the Province of Vicenza, an ever-changing landscape of mountains, valleys, water courses, art cities, and food and wine itineraries offering evocative landscapes, as well as many an opportunity for a rather pleasant vacation.
In the north lies the plateau known as the Altopiano di Asiago and its eight municipalities: dressed in a palette of colors, the emerald valleys and meadows scattered with cyclamens, primroses, woodruffs, and lilies of the valley mix with the dark green of thick woods, softened when the white snow covers the entire panorama.
Below the plateau lies the Bassano zone, dominated by Monte Grappa; it is the perfect destination for those charmed by the tranquilizing scenery of gently-rolling hills, places of remembrance, traditions and old trades.
Even further down are the wide valleys of Alto Vicentino, with their remarkable natural, historic and artistic landscapes.
The Basso Vicentino area, a strip of land in the far south of the province, appears as a geometrical mosaic covered by rows of vineyards, olive trees and fruit trees. The mighty rocks of the Berici Hills hover overhead.
Vicenza, situated in the plain’s center, is a fine exemplar of all the art, history, nature and culinary traditions the region has to offer offer.
Contessa Carolina Valmarana
THE OPERA OLIMPICA STAGE
It is one of the artistic wonders of Vicenza. During the Renaissance, in fact, a theatre was not a building in itself, as it would later become, but a temporary arrangement of an outside space or an existing building; in Vicenza, these spaces were courtyards of palaces or the hall of the Palazzo della Ragione.
In 1580, at the age of 72, Palladio was commissioned a permanent theatre by the Accademia Olimpica, the cultural group he belonged to himself. The design is clearly inspired by the Roman theatres, as described by Vitruvius: an elliptical terraced auditorium, framed by a colonnade, with a frieze topped by statues. In front of it is the rectangular stage and a majestic proscenium with two orders of architecture, opened by three arcades and divided by half-columns inside which we find aedicules and niches with statues and panels with bas-reliefs.
Critics call the work “manneristic” because of the intense light and shade effect, which is also intensified by a series of other optic solutions the architect used thanks to his experience: the progressive diminishing of the fronts with height is visually compensated with the protruding statues; he plays with overhangs and niches to increase the sense of depth.
Palladio’s design was made a few months before his death and he would not see the result; his son Silla oversaw the works and handed the theatre over to the town in 1583. The first performance on Carnival 1585 was memorable; its subject was a Greek tragedy, Oedipus the King by Sophocles, and the stage design reproduces the seven streets of the city of Thebes, which can be seen in the five openings of the proscenium through a clever game of perspectives. The creator of this little wonder inside the wonder is Vincenzo Scamozzi. The effect was so impressing, the wooden structures became a stable part of the theatre. Scamozzi was also asked to create accessory spaces: the “Odeo”, the hall where the meetings of the Accademia took place, and the “Antiodeo”, decorated with monochrome panels by the fine Vicenza painter Francesco Maffei.
The fame of the new theatre spread first to Venice and then all over Italy, rousing admiration of all those who saw the humanist dream of the reborn classic art come true. Afterwards, in spite such an exiting start, the theatre’s activity was interrupted by the censorship under the counter-reformation, and it became a simple place of representation: Pope Pius VI was received there in 1782, as well as the emperor Franz I of Austria in 1816 and his heir Ferdinand I in 1838. In mid-19th century there were occasionally classical representations, but it was not until after World War II, with the threat of the bombingsgone, that they started again, in a theatre which has no equals in the world.
THE SOCIETÀ DEL QUARTETTO DI VICENZA
The Società del Quartetto di Vicenza is a non-profit association that has been organizing and promoting seasons of concerts, music festivals and single concert events for over a century.
The association’s history began in 1910 when the writer Antonio Fogazzaro gathered around him a group of music lovers to create a musical association in Vicenza, based on the example of other historical associations that in the late nineteenth and early Twentieth century had flourished in the most important Italian cities.
Since then the activity of the Società del Quartetto has been carried out uninterruptedly, with the exception of a pause of a few years to coincide with the Second World War.
Born as a sort of private circle which included the notables of the city — middle-high bourgeoisie and aristocracy — the association’s activity has gradually opened up to broader segments of the public, especially since the seventies of the century last.
Today the concerts promoted by the Società del Quartetto (about sixty a year) are followed by an audience of 20 thousand spectators very heterogeneous by age, cultural education and social background, thanks to a careful pricing policy and a scrupulous choice of proposals music that, depending on the context, ranging from the “classical” repertoire to jazz, traditional and popular music.