Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Most Beautiful Supermarket in the World - Teatro Italia in Venice Part 3 - The Story Continues

Teatro Italia in its heyday
(Venice, Italy) One year ago today, I wrote about the controversial transformation of Teatro Italia, a beautiful neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau architectural gem here in Venice, into a Despar supermarket.

Inaugurated on March 2, 1916 as a theater, Teatro Italia was the dream of the Venetian publisher, Giuseppe Scarabellin, along with the designer, Dominico Mocellin. The architect was Giovanni Sardi, renown for designing the Hotel Excelsior on the Lido.

Scarabellin had a vision of how he wanted the building to look, and hired the prominent artists Guido Marussig, Alessandro Pomi, Umberto Martina and Umberto Bellotto, who were all friends, to decorate the interior with their considerable talents, including Pomi's fresco The Allegory of the Glory of Italy in the center of the ceiling, and Bellotto's wrought iron enhancements.

Decades later, Teatro Italia morphed from a cinema into a lecture hall for Ca' Foscari, Venice's university, and then closed in the late 1990s, when it slid into decay and became a home for rats. If it hadn't been bought by Piero Coin and restored, it would have crumbled down.

Teatro Italia before the restoration
By coincidence, a year ago today, I was passing by Teatro Italia on the day it opened on December 28, 2016 in its current incarnation as a Despar supermarket. I went inside, then came home and wrote a post, which you can read here:

The Most Beautiful Supermarket in the World? Teatro Italia Morphs into De Spar in Venice


That post caused all sorts of uproar, including opinionated, negative comments on social media by self-proclaimed Venice "experts," who were not Venetian, did not live in Venice and had never seen the interior of Teatro Italia -- nor had they ever visited the Despar supermarket. This was yet another example of outside forces trying to control the narrative here in Venice.

I went back the next day, came home and wrote another post:

The Most Beautiful Supermarket in the World? Teatro Italia - Part Two: The Balcony


In January of this year, I attended a press conference presented by Despar, which provided details of the restoration. Executives from Despar were there, and as I have written previously, they are nice people who knew full well that they were taking on a difficult, historic project and made every effort to ensure their restoration was done with care down to the smallest details, and that the supermarket was of the highest quality.

Despar is proud of their recycling program, their bio products, that they are sustainable and that all their energy is green; they installed full LED lighting. The supermarket on Strada Nuova is a showcase for Despar Italia, and they have every incentive to keep the quality high.

Paul Klotz, President of Despar Italia "The Beauty of Sustainability" Photo: Cat Bauer
From the SPAR website: "SPAR is an international group of independently owned and operated retailers and wholesalers who work together in partnership under the SPAR Brand to provide a high quality, value-for-money shopping experience for the communities we serve." SPAR has about 12,500 stores in 44 countries on four continents.

De Spar was founded in 1932 by Adriaan van Well, a Dutch wholesaler who believed that independent wholesalers and retailers can achieve more by working together than working alone. In Dutch "De Spar" means "fir tree," which is their logo, and "Despar" is an an acronym of a slogan created by van Well to describe the organization: Door Eendrachtig Samenwerken Profiteren Allen Regelmatig, which translates into English as: All benefit from joint co-operation.

The group morphed into being simply SPAR ("spaar" means "save" in Dutch), except in Italy, where it is still Despar. Despar Italia is a consortium of six large companies of retailers, one of which is SPAR Austria Group (Aspiag), which is headquartered in Switzerland, and is the largest private employer in Austria.

Teatro Italia Orchestra in the balcony - Photo: Cat Bauer
If you have read my second post, you will know that I focused on the beautiful balcony, and how there would be cultural events in the future. 

Well, the future is now. Back on September 8, 2017, I was invited to hear a concert by the newly-formed Teatro Italia Orchestra - TIO - a group of students from the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello, Venice's school of music, founded and directed by Maestro Dario Bisso Sabadin. Imagine shopping for groceries when, suddenly, the music of violins fills the air.

Actually, you don't have to imagine. I filmed a short video, which you can watch below:



For those who want to educate themselves about Teatro Italia, a book about the history of Venezia Cinema Teatro Italia was recently published in Italian by Marsilio. A limited edition will be published in English in February. I'll keep you posted.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. One year ago today, I wrote about the controversial transformation of Teatro Italia, a beautiful neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau architectural gem here in Venice, into a Despar supermarket. Inaugurated on March 2, 1916 as a theater, Teatro Italia was the dream of the Venetian publisher, Giuseppe Scarabellin, along with the designer, Dominico Mocellin. The architect was Giovanni Sardi, renown for designing the Hotel Excelsior on the Lido.

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Ciao from Venice,
Cat