The Teatro Olimpico is a theatre in Vicenza, northern Italy, constructed in 1580-1585. The theatre was the design by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and was not completed until after his death. The full Roman-style scaenae frons back screen across the stage is made from wood and it was the home of the Accademia Olimpica, which was founded there in 1555. The Teatro Olimpico is, along with the Teatro allantica in Sabbioneta, both these theatres were based, in large measure, on the Teatro Olimpico. It is still used several times a year, since 1994, the Teatro Olimpico, together with other Palladian buildings in and around Vicenza, has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto. The Teatro Olimpico is the last work by Palladio, and ranks amongst his highest masterworks, as well, Palladios papers include plans for the imagined reconstruction of the ruined Roman theatres in Pola and Verona. Palladio, a founder of the Olympic Academy, had already designed temporary theatre structures at various locations in the city, the most notable of these had been erected some seventeen years previously in the great hall of the Basilica Palladiana. In order to fit a stage and seating area into the wide, shallow space, Palladio died in August 1580, only six months after construction had started on the theatre. Despite this setback, construction continued, with Palladios sketches and drawings serving as a guide, soon, the other prominent Vicentine architect, Vincenzo Scamozzi was called upon to complete the project. Scamozzi had already stepped in to complete Palladios other great unfinished project and it is a mark of Scamozzis genius that both these projects are today regarded as being among Palladios most successfully executed works. Scamozzis contributions include the Odèo and Antiodèo rooms, as well as the entrance archway which leads from the street, however, the entrance archway was rusticated to make it fit with the rough and well-worn wall into which it was being inserted. However, Scamozzis most famous and most original contribution to the theatre was his elaborate stage set, aside from a single sketch of the scaenae frons, Palladio left no plans as to what kind of scenery should be used onstage. His illustration of an idealized Roman scaenae frons for Barbaros edition of Vitruvius had shown perspective street views similar to those which would later be built in the Teatro Olimpico. But the sketch of the scaenae frons for the Teatro Olimpico shows no such street scenes, the space behind the central archway. The simplest explanation for the absence of any scenes in this drawing is that the Academy had not yet obtained the land on which the scenery would later be built. This land was acquired in 1582, after Scamozzi had taken charge of the project and this made it possible to extend the building. But it is appropriate to regard Scamozzi as the technical genius behind their remarkably successful execution. Scamozzis stage set was the first practical introduction of perspective views into Renaissance theatre, the scenery consists of seven hallways decorated to create the illusion of looking down the streets of a city from classical antiquity
Scaenae frons of the Teatro Olimpico. The large arch in the center is known as the porta regia or "royal arch".
The "cavea", or seating area. The "loggia" or columned portico at the top conceals a staircase (visible in Scamozzi's floorplan) which originally served as the entrance to the cavea.