Housed in the Casa della Musica at Palazzo Cusani, the museum traces the history of the opera theatre in Parma through the themes and protagonists that marked their evolution from their origins to the present. The museum displays documents and materials – objects, posters, photographs, drawings, sketches, and sheet music – which mostly come from the historical archives of the Teatro Regio. Information and multi-media stations featuring audio and visual material made especially for the museum round out the displays.
The exhibits are arranged chronologically and span four centuries, from the 17th to the 20th. In Parma, the 17th century saw the construction of the splendid Teatro Farnese, built on Ranuccio I’s orders and inaugurated in 1628 for the wedding of Odoardo Farnese and Margherita de Medici. A typical court theatre, the Farnese hosted magnificent musical events and tournaments dedicated to glorifying the House of Farnese and the dominant aristocracy.
The following century marked a shift from court to public theatre. The new Ducale theatre was built, and would remain active until the early 1800s. Its stage hosted wildly popular Baroque operas and, later on, Neoclassical operas.
In the 19th century, a new Teatro Ducale was inaugurated (in 1829) with Vincenzo Bellini’s Zaira. Musically, this was the century of Rossini and Verdi, but also of Marie Louise of Austria, wife of Napoleon, Duchess of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla from 1815 and 1847, and a keen amateur musician.
The 20th century began with Verdi’s death in 1901; several new theatres were born in the city, and some of the great artists that emerged in those days included Arturo Toscanini and Ildebrando Pizzetti.
The exhibits end with a room dedicated to the celebrations for the first centenary of Verdi’s birth that took place in Parma and Busseto in 1913. This was an important moment in the history of opera, as it was the first time that music and voices were recorded, as gramophone records made their first appearance.