The creation of what was to finally become the Teatro Massimo Bellini took almost two hundred years, beginning with discussions following the disastrous 1693 earthquake which completely destroyed Catania. The construction of a public theatre was discussed, and a foundation stone was finally laid in 1812.
Architect Salvatore Zahra Buda began to prepare a plan for a theatre in the Piazza Nuovaluce. It was decided that a “Great Municipal Theatre” worthy of an expanding city should be created; but due to funding problems, work had to stop for some years.
In 1870, the theatre architect Carlo Sada was appointed to find a suitable site for the new theatre.
A Municipal committee then decided that the structure should be made into a single-purpose opera house. Finally, work proceeded well, and the theatre was completed in seven years, opening in May 1890.
The exterior of the house matches the distinctive Sicilian Baroque style of the neighboring buildings of the late 17th Century. Its marble foyer, the “Ridotto”, is ornate and stuccoed, and a statue of Bellini is located between the central arches.
The beautiful red-plush interior includes the main floor seating and four tiers of boxes. Surrounding them, on the upper level, are unusual arched arcades. The painted ceiling by Ernesto Bellandi depicts scenes from four of Bellini’s most well-known operas.