Bortolo Riccardi - 1796
Bortolo Riccardi was a theatre impresario in an era of great change. At times, his life, with its dramatic plot twists, came close to resembling a tragicomic opera. A shrewd and cunning operator, Riccardi found a way around regulations that prohibited the construction of permanent theatres in the Fair area but proved too successful for his own good. Full houses every night made him the envy of rival theatre owners and trouble soon came calling. First in the shape of the Venetian Inquisition, which condemned him to two years of prison for his Enlightenment ideas and pro-French tendencies, and subsequently, an arson attack that destroyed his life’s work – the theatre that bore his name. Riccardi knew the identity of the guilty party – Count Ottolini, a member of the old Bergamo aristocracy – but was unable to prove it.
Refusing to throw in the towel, Riccardi started out afresh, producing temporary theatre in marquees, and all of a sudden, things took an unexpected turn for the better. The old regime collapsed, Count Ottolini was found guilty and thrown into jail and his assets confiscated to compensate Riccardi, who finally was able to realize his dream of building a major theatre – the very same one that 100 years later would be renamed in honour of Gaetano Donizetti.