The Mario Rossi Tradition
In the earl y 1900s, the scenography department was situated in the theatre’s attic, as was the case for all other opera houses of the time.
The spaciousness, equal to that of the stalls, the brightness, diffused by the blinds, and the wooden plank floors lent themselves well to this use. The management was in the hands of the Rossi family, who had the duty of executing scenic designs on behalf of the theatre and had full managerial autonomy. Until just a few years ago, there was a plaque outside the theatre displaying the Rossi name.
The sets, which were generally painted, were done on a special type of paper that came from Bohemia. Only later began the use of canvas, which the Rossi family went to buy themselves from a cotton mill in Gorizia.
The “fortresses” on the ends of the backdrops were created using old bed sheets and towels; the only solution given the times of war.
Some elements of these sets can be found at the “Carlo Schmidt” Theatre Museum. The last member of the Rossi family to work on scenic design was Mario, who had left the orchestra in which he played the violin to fulfill this passion. He managed the workshop, first under the supervision of Sbisà, then until the era of the legendary secretary-general Fulvio Gilleri. The only employee during that time was the artist Claudio Fuchs, from Trieste, who was payed directly by the Rossi family. He later became the workshops’ Head of Service.
In the meantime, the number of employees increased, given the complexity of the installations, until the 1970s where it reached four scenic designers. Fuchs, Calligaris, Perez and Grison, who were former students at the Art Institute of Trieste and who had done their apprenticeship at the Sormani firm in Milan. From 2001 to 2014, Pier Paolo Bisleri handled the management of the installations.
The tradition of using the local Art Institute as a nursery for future scenic designers is still alive to this day.
‘Triestini’ (people from Trieste) are some of the best private set makers and managers in Italy, such as Silvano De Foregher at the Royal Theatre in Turin, Lauro Crisman at the Fenice in Venice, Claudio Toncinich at the Rubechini in Florence, Luciano Visintin also in Florence and Sergio Tavagna at the TRS in Oderzo.
Assisting the scenic designers is a group of six “grinders” (now called set design toolmakers), named as such because some decades ago, colourful soils were produced in solid blocks that had to be ground to create the tempera. Scenic designers often had their first experiences in this sector.
The carpentry of that time was situated far from the theatre in some venues in Via Udine.
La tradizione di Mario Rossi
Agli inizi del Novecento il reparto di scenografia era situato nella soffitta del teatro, come in tutti gli altri teatri d'opera dell'epoca.
L'ampiezza, pari a quella della platea, la luminosità, diffusa dalle persiane, e i pavimenti in listoni di legno ben si prestavano a questo utilizzo. La gestione era nelle mani della famiglia Rossi, che aveva il compito di eseguire le scenografie per conto del teatro e aveva piena autonomia gestionale. Fino a pochi anni fa all'esterno del teatro c'era una targa con il nome Rossi.
Le scenografie, generalmente dipinte, erano realizzate su un tipo speciale di carta proveniente dalla Boemia. Solo in seguito iniziò l'uso della tela, che la famiglia Rossi comprava da un cotonificio di Gorizia.
Le “fortezze” alle estremità dei fondali erano realizzate utilizzando vecchie lenzuola e asciugamani; l'unica soluzione visti i tempi di guerra.
Alcuni elementi di queste scenografie si trovano presso il Museo Teatrale “Carlo Schmidt”. L'ultimo membro della famiglia Rossi a lavorare alla scenografia è stato Mario, che aveva lasciato l'orchestra in cui suonava il violino per seguire questa passione. Ha gestito il laboratorio, prima sotto la supervisione di Sbisà e poi fino all'epoca del leggendario segretario generale Fulvio Gilleri. L'unico dipendente in quel periodo era l'artista Claudio Fuchs, triestino, pagato direttamente dalla famiglia Rossi. In seguito è diventato il capo della Scenografia .
Nel frattempo il numero dei dipendenti cresceva, considerata la complessità degli allestimenti, fino ad arrivare negli anni '70 a quattro scenografi: Fuchs, Calligaris, Perez e Grison, ex studenti dell'Istituto d'Arte di Trieste, che avevano svolto il loro apprendistato presso lo studio Sormani di Milano. Dal 2001 al 2014 Pier Paolo Bisleri ha curato la gestione dei laboratori.
La tradizione di utilizzare l'Istituto d'arte locale come fucina per futuri scenografi è ancora viva.
Triestini sono alcuni dei migliori scenografi in Italia, come Silvano De Foregher al Teatro Regio di Torino, Lauro Crisman alla Fenice di Venezia, Claudio Toncinich da Rubecchini a Firenze, Luciano Visintin a Firenze e Sergio Tavagna a Oderzo.
Ad assistere gli scenografi un gruppo di sei “macinini” (ora chiamati attrezzisti di scenografia), così denominati perché alcuni decenni fa producevano terre colorate da blocchi massicci, che dovevano essere molati per creare la tempera. Spesso gli scenografi hanno maturato le loro prime esperienze in questo ruolo.
La falegnameria dell'epoca era situata lontano dal teatro in alcuni locali di Via Udine.
1981 - The closure
The year 1981 marks an important milestone in the history of the workshop.
The new regulations regarding the prevention of accidents forced theatres to empty their attics, depriving them of almost any material and productive activity.
The unpredictable closure was almost immediate, with grave repercussions on internal production and on staff.
1985 – The reopening
Only Fulvio Gilleri’s strong will, agreed upon also by the trade union representatives who were very keen on the conservation of this artistic heritage, could make sure the Province granted a pavilion to the theatre (the F), situated in the ex-Psychiatric Hospital of San Giovanni (which had been closed shortly before by Franco Basaglia). The venues that also housed the carpentry were, however, too small, so much so that, for the production of large backdrops, the use of the ex-theatre of the OPP, which was not in use at the time, was granted.
The new methods for constructing the sets, increasingly based on manufactured elements, the arrival of the first plastic materials and of polyurethane foams, which somewhat replaced the only painted canvases, made it so that the space was no longer big enough. Therefore, in the 90s, there were three different locations: the ex-OPP, IRFOP in Valmaura, and the Trieste Fair.
2001 – The Noghere
The transport costs and the fragmentation of production soon became so unsustainable that the Management and the Municipality of Trieste turned to other solutions.
Thus, during the Illy council and the supervision of Lorenzo Jorio the project of creating a new scenic design workshop was completed.
In the initial project, which took all past experiences into account, the use of a single workshop on behalf of all theatres in the city was foreseen.
The site was identified in the Industrial Area of Noghere, which is on the outskirts of the city but able to occupy a venue suited for this activity.
Construction ended in two years and the new site finally joined the scenic design workshop, with specific and computerised offices, to that of wooden constructions, with new machinery and an extension of useful space, a synergy that was unheard of until then.