Bibiena family

Definition

Theater

  • An Italian family of theater architects and scene designers. They were the most influential designers of the 18th century, introducing towering perspective scenery and the baroque style to European opera houses.

    The family's association with the stage was begun by Giovanni Maria Galli da Bibiena (1625 - 65), known as Il Vecchio. His eldest son, Ferdinando Galli Bibiena (1657 - 1743), worked as a young manin the Teatro Farnese in Bologna. There he introduced his angle perspective(scena per angolo), which revolutionized staging, replacing one vanishing point with several. In 1708 he was summoned to Barcelona to direct festivities at the wedding of the future Emperor Charles VI, who in 1711 named him as court architect in Vienna. There he also designed scenery for the opera.He returned to Bologna in 1717 and built the royal theater at Mantua in 1731.

    Ferdinando's brother, Francesco Galli Bibiena (1659 - 1737),worked throughout the Continent before becoming the ducal architect at Mantua. His buildings include the grand theater in Nancy and the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona (both 1708 - 09). In 1716 Francesco and Ferdinando together designedsettings for an outdoor celebration to mark the birth of a son to Charles VI. The stage was built over a large canal and at one point divided to show gilded naval vessels floating on the water below. "The theater is so large that it is hard to carry the eye to the end of it" wrote Lady Mary WortleyMontagu to Alexander Pope.

    Ferdinando's eldest son, Alessandro Galli Bibiena (1687 - 1769), became in 1719 an architect and painter at the court of the elector of the Palatinate. A second son, Giuseppe (1696 - 1757), became the family's most respected artist, working with his father on designs for operas, plays, and dances. He seems to have been the first to introduce transparent scenery lit from behind. Ferdinando's third son, Antonio (1697 - c. 1774), designed the Teatro Communale at Bologna in 1755 and the Teatro dei Quattro Cavalieri in Pavia in 1773. He followed his father as the Viennese court architect.

    Giuseppe's son, Carlo Galli Bibiena (1728 - 87), collaboratedwith his father on the Bayreuth Opera house, and subsequently worked throughoutEurope, including London. One of his stage settings can still be seen at the Drottningholm Theatre museum in Sweden (see Theatre Museum).

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