Giovanni Battista Locatelli

Opera director and impresario
Born: Milan or Venice - 7 January 1713
Died: St. Petersburg - 14 March 1785

Giovanni Battista Locatelli is credited by many as the first theatrical impresario in Russia, and was certainly the first to have success with a private theatre company.

Locatelli arrived in St. Petersburg in 1757 with opera, ballet and drama companies which performed for the court of Empress Elizabeth. The Empress agreed to pay a yearly fee from the court budget, and also allowed Locatelli to play three shows a week, two for the paying public and one for the court, on the stage by the Summer Palace. Later, she granted Locatelli the use of the Old Court Theatre. Staging mainly opera buffa, Locatelli's company proved wildly successful, and in 1759 he was able to open a private theatre in Moscow, the Opera House at Krasniye Vorota. Locatelli introduced the Russian public in both cities not only to professional opera and ballet but also to elements of commedia dell'arte.

With the death of Elizabeth, Locatelli lost his royal patronage, and was soon obliged to close his theatre for financial reasons. When Catherine the Great came to throne, he tried to restore his finances by organizing public masquerades in St. Petersburg, but with no great success. He ended his days teaching French and Italian at the school of the Imperial Theatres.