If you wander into the small maze of streets between via Medina and via Depretis just west of Piazza Municipio, you will find via San Bartolomeo. On this street is a tiny church, now closed,called Santa Maria della Graziella. The church is on the site of the original opera house of Naples and was opened as the San Bartolomeo Theater in 1621. It, thus, got in on the beginnings of opera, begun a few years earlier in Florence and turned into a full-blown commercial venture in Venice in the early decades of the seventeenth century. Early opera was even termed "musica Veneziana"—Venetian music—in the Italy of the day, and it was not long before productions of this delightful new music from the north were being performed in Naples.
San Bartolomeo was
destroyed by fire in 1681 but rebuilt at great expense
almost immediately, so important was its cultural
contribution to the life of the city. The theater was
the site where much of the great music of the Neapolitan
Baroque at the turn of the eighteenth century was
performed for the first time, music of Alessandro Scarlatti and Pergolesi, for example. By the
early decades of the eighteenth century, however, the
theater had decayed badly; the Teatro Nuovo (New Theater)
was built in 1724, located in the Spanish Quarter. It was built
on older models and was clearly insufficient for its
purposes, so the new monarch from Spain, Charles III, decided that a
new theater should be built. When the grand theater of San Carlo opened in 1737, the
old San Bartolomeo was closed and rebuilt as a church.
The architect who turned San Bartolomeo into a house of
worship was Angelo Carasale,
the same man who designed the new theater of San
Actually, most tourists by-pass the church of Santa Maria delle Graziella (also known as San Bartolomeo). It's not so much off the beaten track as it is below and behind it. You have to walk down some stairs on via Medina not far from the city hall, about as beaten a track as there is. You might do that if you happen to see the historical marker that identifies the old building as the original opera theater in Naples. This where the works of Monteverdi were first performed in Naples, and then of Scarlatti and Pergolesi. The building had a facade-lift a few years ago and the historical marker went up, all to no avail because it's still closed. If you look carefully, however, you'll notice a For Rent sign on it! That's right, the premises of one of the most historic buildings in the city are being rented out for storage! —not the upper floors, apparently, because some families are still squatting there. But if you call the number on the sign or ask around the adjacent shops, sooner or later someone will come down with the keys and show you what space you can have for 450 euros a month. It doesn't seem to matter that the Culture Guardians at city hall have declared that you can't do something like that to a building as historic as this one.