Five centuries of theater ephemera are artfully displayed in the Palazetto del Burcardo in Rome. The building itself sits on the foundation of the Pompey’s Roman theater, and the Teatro Argentina (which debuted the Barber of Seville in 1816 and Rigoletto in 1851) lies next door.
Most of the collection was bequeathed by Luigi Rasi, an actor and theater historian, and other notable performers have since contributed to the collection. The museum now displays excellent marionettes from around the world, as far as China, as well as rare, vibrant harlequin costumes.
Relics of the origins of Commedia dell’Arte, etchings from the early 1600s reveal the aesthetic beginnings of an art form that influenced slapstick, Charlie Chaplin, and many others.
Some would say Italy’s theater history is more interesting than its current incarnation. You can test the hypothesis by concluding your visit to the museum with a show next door where the current Teatro di Roma is in residence! Or you could follow up your visit with a stop at the International Museum of Film and Cinema on the other side of town.
Update February 2017: As of now the Burcardo Theater Museum is closed. The collection is dismissed, and it will probably be moved to the library of Italian author society (SIAE) main building at Via della Letteratura 24.