The theater, inaugurated in 1812, was taken from the fourteenth-century church of St. Francis located on the top floor of the complex of the same name: during the Napoleonic control, the church was closed and the project of conversion into a theater was entrusted to the architect Giuseppe Magistretti.
Three years after its completion, changed the political climate, a papal decree caused its closure because of the incompatibility between the pre-existing religious structure and the new destination as a place for shows. It reopened in 1831, on the condition that the municipal authorities readjust the façade, erasing any reference to the pre-existing church: the nineteenth-century portico, which constitutes the entrance to the theater, is so foreign (almost “supported”) to the rest of the building that has maintained largely medieval lines and proportions.
The theater is decorated by the pictorial decorations of Felice Giani, an extraordinary interpreter of neoclassicism, and of his collaborator Gaetano Bertolani, a decorator.
The history of this key place in the culture and society of Imola is more than 200 years long.
In the theater’s lyrical works alternate between dramas, melodramas, comedies, games of prestige and acrobatic dances and dance parties.
Usually the shows are staged between January and February, during the carnival, in May during the rogations of the Blessed Virgin of the Piratello and in August for the feast of the patron saint San Cassiano.
Plays by Goldoni, Pellico, Boito, Shakespeare and operas by Rossini, Bellini, Bizet, Mascagni, Verdi and Puccini are among the works that grace the stage.
From 1931 to 1974 the theater was closed because of security reasons.
The theater since 1977 takes its name from the famous opera singer Ebe Stignani.
Since then, until the early 2000s, it has hosted all the greatest national artists of prose: Vittorio Gassman, Tino Buazzelli, Umberto Orsini, Glauco Mauri, Luca De Filippo, Roberto Sturno, Mariangela Melato, Rossella Falk, Paolo Stoppa, Anna Proclemer, Eros Pagni , Gabriele Lavia, Monica Guerritore, Toni Servillo, Carlo Giuffrè.
In 2004 the nineteenth-century body, the ticket office, the offices, the dressing rooms were restored and consolidated, with the introduction of a new architectural element in glass and steel.
In 2010, the Teatro Stignani was finally returned to the city and continues every year to give beauty and emotion to viewers of all ages.
The Stignani theater is also equipped with a smaller room, called Ridotto, with an availability of 99 seats, located on the second floor. This room has been brought back to its original splendor and is equipped with an advanced HD digital audio and video system.