San Carlo Theatre, Naples

San Carlo Ballet emotion
A story of Naples 


*This story appears on March-April 2021 Terre & Culture magazine issue, in the section Food & Friends.

A story told by Pina Testa, former dancer of San Carlo Theatre.


I entered the San Carlo Theater in Naples when I was 16 years old and I can say that I have never left. 

It is a beautiful theater, the first in Europe in 1700 and therefore in the world of that time, still in full activity today.

It's special for the acoustics, the refinement of the furnishings, the attention to detail, but especially for the secrets that jealously guards and reveals only to those who live it as a friend ... special!!!

And for me, dreaming of it with my eyes wide open, it was easy to discover the secret passages with the Royal Palace built to the side, and the primordial elevators to reach without stairs directly to the noble boxes, the many peepholes to see and not be seen, and the stories of the dressing rooms with the double exits of famous artists, and anecdotes all strictly real, even if told with fantasy and legend.

The San Carlo Theater is Naples, and Naples is Theater. A city that falls asleep and wakes up singing, said Salvatore Di Giacomo, and he was right! The artists of the San Carlo theater are the pride of Naples, and this can be seen in many things: the smile of the lady who makes your coffee in the morning, the deference with which the waiter serves you your pizza, the smug smile of the sales clerk who has you measure a dress and says "How can you tell that you are a dancer, madam, this dress seems to have been made especially for you!". The respect that Neapolitans have for culture, and for art, in particular, is the measure of the greatness and the heart of the city, which seems to want to forget the problems of work, of the underworld, of bad government, to focus only on beautiful things. 

A premiere at the San Carlo is a very important event, around which the whole city clings; it is evident, tangible. Try having a coffee in a bar near the theater, before a show: people will say phrases like "This coffee is perfect for the theater", or "You'll make it just in time before the show starts", or "See you after the show". , or even "See you after the theater!". Maybe no one knows what goes on in the theater, but everyone imagines it and thinks it's a big deal. 

It was during an evening of dress rehearsal that I experienced unforgettable moments, a frenetic memory with action movie timing and an overwhelming finale.  

General rehearsal at the last moment anticipated by one evening to have more time for changes of passages between orchestra and corps de ballet.                                       

I was already the first dancer, I had to dance in "La strada" by Mario Pistoni and as usual I had anticipated more than two hours in sufficient time, but on the highway, the imponderable: a very serious accident all stopped, blocked one behind the other, there were no cell phones yet economically affordable a tragedy, unable to reach any of the highway outlets, a real eternity.

 I was gripped by anxiety, worry and then terror for the responsibility of compromising everyone's work.

Suddenly everything came to a halt just half an hour before the start of the show, at the moment when in the theater everything is already ready and the "who's on stage" is given.  

Obviously, stopped in the car, I had already combed and made up, put on my stockings and pointe shoes. 

A mad dash through city traffic: 

"I'm a dancer, I have to go to the San Carlo, I have to dance in 10 minutes!", I was shouting and crying, crying and shouting.  I don't know how I got to Piazza Plebiscito five minutes before the show started, I left the car unlocked with keys and everything on the seats, and I rushed down the stairs. 

My understudy was already ready, dressed and made up. I remember the seamstress ripping her costume off of her and slipping it on me. I entered the scene on time. I don't remember how I danced, I was too confused and rehearsed from all that I had experienced. That was probably the most heartfelt and poignant performance of all .... but it was all just beginning. 

I entered my dressing room very tired, and happy for the wonderful rehearsal, and without realizing it I was as if enveloped by an intense scent of something good, I immediately thought that hunger, I was a kind of mirage, given the late hour and energy lost.  I rummaged through costumes, tutus, shoes even in the bathroom and under the sofa, but nothing and to understand if it was pure fantasy or reality, I looked for someone in the hallways and dressing rooms nearby, to be helped to have a certainty that the scent was a reality ....

In the semi-darkness of the corridor a silhouette of a friendly face, more than a friend, a passion of mine, a boy, Renato, my dance partner, with whom I had surely fallen in love but not yet corresponded, maybe he will be very shy I thought, and in a flash I asked him to help me and enter my dressing room.  

An opportunity that also gave me the chance to talk with a little 'intimacy and a lot of willingness to understand his desires.

As soon as he entered and asked if he smelled the same perfume as me, without even looking at me, in two seconds he presented me with a beautiful gift package with flowers and colorful bows, placed on a shelf above the entrance door, behind some stage masks.

My happiness in opening the package with him and discovering a beautiful macaroni omelette, crispy and perfect, a true specialty and amidst screams of joy thinking of an admirer who knew my desires that due to diet I could never satisfy, he had realized another dream for me.  I took Renato by the hand with the package in hand, and running we found ourselves in front of the large window, made in the backstage to allow the King to be able to see from the Royal Stage all the Gulf of Naples, although historically established that it was a further escape route directly on the port of Naples.

Without thinking about it, through the large window I found myself on a beautiful eighteenth-century terrace, with the gulf, the moon and you in front of me, and the wonderful maccheronata!

Pure Happiness, Dance to the Top, night of moon and stars at the end of September, savoring a delight close to my love, a few words, and between sweet looks and many bites of pleasure passed more than an hour, suddenly I came to ask, how did he find the package so quickly. A long minute of silence and two words, pronounced with a veil of melancholy, "I made it myself, for ..." another minute of silence, "I'm glad you like it so much, but ... Eugenio asked me the dancer in the row, the one with black eyes and curly hair ...

In a moment I felt myself sinking, and thank goodness I had already eaten a good portion, because I would not have touched it if the revelation had come before reaching the terrace.

On the flight I was taken back from the bottom by two strong arms that held me tightly, accompanied by words of great sincerity, "Thank you for waking me up, for the real emotions you gave me, for helping me to finally understand what and who was in my life" In a minute from the stars to the dust and from the dust to the stars a true madness never experienced again.  

Even today, so many years later, I would like to relive it all with the same rhythm, and I often ask Renato to prepare one of his specialties for dinners by moonlight on his terrace together with our lifelong friends.

I forgot that at the end of the night I remembered that I had left my car in the middle of the square and I was sure that I would not find it.  I did find it, well parked with a bouquet of flowers and a note inside: "To the most beautiful, talented dancer in love with the theater. This is Naples, this is the San Carlo. This is my life.