“Excellent painter”, “the greatest scenographer in Italy”. This is how Giuseppe Verdi described Girolamo Magnani, his favourite scenographer.
Magnani was born in Fidenza on 22nd April 1815; at the age of 20, after completing his art studies in Parma, he decorated the Sala della Rocchetta in today’s Galleria Nazionale di Parma according to the tradition of Emilia Renaissance decoration. Duchess Marie Louise commissioned him to decorate some halls of her palace. He also decorated some other important theatres beside Parma, in particular Reggio Emilia, Piacenza, Brescia and Fidenza. He was first a professor and then was appointed as Head of the Parma Academy of Fine Arts.
From 1853 to 1861 he was the Chief Scenographer at the Teatro Regio in Parma; before taking this position, he had visited the most prestigious theatres in Europe to deepen his knowledge about scenery construction, theatrical decoration, acoustics, visibility and gas lighting.
He also decorated Fidenza Theatre, which was dedicated to him after his death. The ceiling of the hall is decorated with little dancing angels, whereas the three levels of galleries are decorated with golden stuccoes.
The friendship between Giuseppe Verdi and Girolamo Magnani dates back to 1860; in 1872, Magnani was employed by the Teatro alla Scala to create the scenic design for Aida and, then, for other Verdi’s operas. Verdi appreciated Magnani’s ability to create scenic designs that fit perfectly with the music and the libretto.
In 1874, he was invited by the Philadelphia Academy to create the scenic design on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Independence Day. He died in Parma on 24th September 1889.
Sources: “Fidenza – Un paese, la sua storia, la sua anima” Editrice Telesio, Milano – Link