The theatre of San Cassiano in Venice, inaugurated in early 1637, was the first opera house that was opened to the general public. The theatre took its name from the neighborhood where it is located, the parish of San Cassiano that is close to the Rialto.
The original wooden structured theatre, used for plays, was built by Andrea Palladio in 1565, but was destroyed by a fire in 1629. It was quickly rebuilt into a stone building and was then acquired by the Tron family. The Tron family’s San Cassiano theater in Venice was one of the decisive factors in establishing opera as a a popular art form. The theatre placed the opera within reach of all but the poorest sectors of the Italian urban population. This action removed opera from the exclusive hands of royalty and nobility.
The first operas hosted in this theatre were “L’ Andromeda” and “La Maga Fulminata”, which were produced in 1637 and 1638 by Romans Benedetto Ferrari and Francesco Manelli respectively.
By the end of the 17th century Venice had become the opera capital of the world, and opened a variety of new opera houses. The San Cassiano theatre was surpassed by others and its number of performances declined largely. It hosted its last performances in 1807 and was again burned to the ground.