Civico Museo Teatrale Carlo Schmidl - Trieste


The Civico Museo Teatrale, which was founded by Carlo Schmidl, in the context of the cult of memories of the stage, with the wide-ranging donation of his historical-musical collection, documents the life of the theatre and music in Trieste from the 18th century to the present day. Posters, theatrical programmes, photographs, publications, medals, paintings, musical instruments, collections of objects, archive material and original manuscripts make up the structure of the theatre’s memories that for almost a century has been supplementing his collection in the spirit of its originator.

Central offices

After being hosted at the Giuseppe Verdi Teatro Comunale from 1924 to 1991, and from 1992 being temporarily located in the Morpurgo Palace in Via Imbriani, the museum found its final place in the Gopcevich Palace, which Spiridione Gopcevich had built in 1850 with the realisation of the project by Giovanni Berlam, and which the municipality of Trieste had purchased and adapted into a museum space. The adaptation works were carried out by the Area Territorio e Patrimonio – Servizio Sviluppo del Patrimonio (Department for the Region and Heritage - Office for the Development of Heritage). Under the auspices of the Administrative Department of Culture, the project of the exhibition was implemented by the scientific staff at the museum and NORP (Nucleo Operativo Ricerche e Progettazioni-Working Group for Research and Design) of the city museums of history and art, according to contemporary criteria respecting the valorisation of exhibition spaces and exhibited collections. The realisation of the goal with the cutting of the ribbon on 16th December 2006 was made possible by the patronly act of Fulvia and Fulvio Costantinides in honour of the remembrance of Giorgio Costantinides.

Carlo Schmidl and the founding of the Museum

The Civico Museo Teatrale was founded in December 1924, according to the wish of the music publisher, music retailer and collector Carlo Schmidl (Trieste 7th October 1859 – 7th October 1943), who concluded a convention with the Municipality of Trieste with which he opened his historical-musical collection, the fruit of half a century of his work, to the public. The son of a Hungarian conductor who moved to Trieste from Budapest, Carlo Schmidl began his thirteen-year work as a scribe and salesman at Fondaco Vicentini. This was a musical instrument shop, a promoter of several publishing initiatives, of great importance for the Trieste musical life of the 19th century, which Schmidl himself would take over later. In the figure of Carlo Schmidl the spirit of a collector and professional activity were combined and coincided, and over a period of fifty years, he collected librettos, photographs, concert programmes, posters, manifestos, manuscripts, souvenirs and various other materials which document the theatrical and musical life in Trieste. As an author, Schmidl published the Dizionario Universale dei musicisti – General Dictionary for Musicians (first edition: Ricordi, 1887) which even today remains a vital instrument for any kind of “musicographical” research of the second half of the 19th century. In December 1924, therefore, the convention enabled Schmidl, as lifetime appointed curator of the museum, to maintain the properties and administration of the collection and that he personally takes care of the expansion of the range of documents and data. The management of the Giuseppe Verdi Municipal Theatre made the necessary space available. Upon his death in 1943, Schmidl bequeathed his collection to the Municipality. In the meantime, in 1936, the Giuseppe Verdi Ente Autonomo Teatro Comunale was established – the Autonomous Institute of the Giuseppe Verdi Municipal Theatre, which made new premises available for the museum’s collection which was constantly growing. Apart from the period of Second World War, when the collections, due to reasons of preservation were stored in other locations, the historical building of the Verdi Theatre hosted the Civico Museo Teatrale di Fondazione Carlo Schmidl (the title which was used from 1947 onwards) until the closure of the theatre for refurbishment at the beginning of the 1990s. Temporarily located in the Morpurgo Palace in Via Imbriani, the museum has found its final headquarters in the Gopcevich Palace.

The collection of musical instruments

The dual nature of the soul of the museum (the exhibited part and the documentation centre) is reflected in the division of the space inside the palace. The first floor, with its beautifully finished floors and richly decorated ceilings, offers an itinerary dedicated to the history of the theatre’s buildings and Trieste’s musical and theatrical protagonists over a period of more than two centuries. A significant part is dedicated to the collection of musical instruments, European and non-European, and a faithful reconstruction of the workshop of Trieste lute maker Francesco Zapelli.

The exhibition of musical instruments, with special attention on the mechanical ones, continues on the second floor of the palace, where there are also special areas dedicated to the memory of Giorgio Strehler (whose private archive is preserved in the museum) and an office for the documentation and consultation of material: visit itineraries and research are therefore developing within a rich network of testimonials which make up the heritage growing constantly every day.

The traditional musical instruments presented on these pages are part of the collection of Robert Starec, the famous Trieste researcher and ethnologist who dedicated a great part of his life to the research of the traditional culture in Istria.