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March 3, On This Day

A theatrical inauguration


The stunning architectural and artistic marvel Teatro Olimpico (Olympic Theatre) in Vicenza, northern Italy, was inaugurated on March 3, 1585, with a production of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. It was the final design by famed Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and not completed till after his death by Vincenzo Scamozzi. Since 1994, the Teatro Olimpico and other Palladian buildings in and around Vicenza are all part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site: ‘City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto’.

At the theatre, the trompe-l’œil onstage scenery gives the appearance of long streets receding to a distant horizon — installed in 1585 for the first performance held here, it is the oldest surviving stage set still in existence.

Also, along with the Teatro all’antica in Sabbioneta and Teatro Farnese in Parma, this is now one of only three Renaissance theatres surviving — and it is still used several times a year.