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Teatro San Cassiano CEO and Jon Greenfield Architecture at the Procuratie Vecchie, Venice

CEO of Teatro San Cassiano, Paul Atkin, and Jon Greenfield, Managing Director, Greenfield Architecture Ltd, with the model of the proposed Teatro San Cassiano in Venice

Future Cities Forum is delighted to welcome back Dr Paul Atkin, Founder of Teatro San Cassiano, to our cultural and sustainability forum in Venice at the Procuratie Vecchie with Generali / The Home of the Human Safety Net in September. Paul last spoke at our 'Cultural Cities' forum at the V&A in September 2022, about his plans to re-build the original 17th century opera house - Teatro San Cassiano of 1637.

He will also be joined by architect, Jon Greenfield, Managing Director, Greenfield Architecture, who has been working with Paul on the design of the opera house.

Paul describes this ambition around the re-construction of the original opera house 'as faithfully as modern scholarship and traditional craftsmanship will allow' to deliver a fully functioning, dedicated Baroque opera house, complete with its own operational Baroque stage machinery, moving scene-sets and special effects.

He also wants to establish the Teatro San Cassiano 'as a world-renowned centre for the research, the exploration and staging of Historically Informed Performance, literally studying Baroque opera through its recital on stage and in the orchestra pit.'

Paul says that:

'Despite the unique opportunities for Venice, it is equally clear that increasing tourism (already at c. 30 million per annum) is not a desire for most Venetians, and that there is a real need to shape tourist activity to better suit the delicate environmental demands of Venice itself.

'The problem mainly comes in the breakdown of the 30 million tourists and the imbalance between ‘good’ tourists (c. 5 million) who stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and invest in the economy and ‘bad’ tourists (the infamous ‘day-trippers’, c. 25 million) who do not stay overnight, bring their own food, buy cheap mementos and whose spend in the city is essentially below sustainable levels, both environmentally and economically. The crux for Venice going forward is how to redress this imbalance, ideally by reducing the ‘bad’ tourists and increasing the ‘good’.

Paul further explains:

'Within this context, the modern-day Baroque enthusiast offers a committed patron willing to travel to pursue their passion. In turn, they create a wealth of commercial opportunities given their target cultural interests. Their impact on Venice will support a refocus on greater cultural activities and result in increased hotel and travel packages linked to specific ticket options and a night at the opera.

'There will be a clear opportunity for local rejuvenation through direct and indirect employment at the theatre and in terms of its supporting infrastructure. This will extend to the immediate community and have a huge beneficial impact on local providers of accommodation, restaurants, bars and shops directly tailored to the needs of these patrons. The project bears comparison to and will profit from models already proven such as the rejuvenation of London’s Bankside following the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.

'The fundamental belief is that these opportunities come in a form which will be good both for the financial and environmental considerations of Venice. Not only will the commercial opportunities lead to increased commerce, but the type of patron the theatre will entice in turns offers Venice precisely the type of ‘good’ tourist it so desperately needs.

Paul also says that the theatre's outreach programme is extremely important:

'The Teatro San Cassiano’s outreach programme will reimagine the meaning of “public opera” in the 21st century. In addition to an “open-access” policy for all the community to make it “their” theatre, the planned outreach projects will inspire the next generation and all parts of the community to place the theatre at the heart of a shared Venetian identity. Singers, musicians and production staff will take opera scenes into schools and to the wider community to educate, to rehearse and ultimately to perform in the San Cassiano before their own families. Music therapy will be a continuous and core element therein.

'The theatre itself will form the perfect example of “Historical New Build” using traditional methods blending with modern technology with the objective of a carbon negative contribution to the Venetian environment, flora and fauna both in its build and operation.'

Image below: close-up of Teatro San Cassiano model, courtesy Teatro San Cassiano


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