The Piran theatre building is an integral part of this smallish Mediterranean town, which from the late 13th to the late 18th century belonged to the Venetian Republic and then from 1813 to 1918 to the Habsburg Monarchy. Industrial and general economic development in the last quarter of the 19thcentury led to the realisation of a few extensive building projects in what was otherwise a town with a medieval urban design. The ancient inner port was filled in, the outer port was enlarged and modernised and a wide strip of the shore on the town’s southern side was built up with gravel. The appearance of the theatre building is closely connected with these interventions; filling in a strip of the shore created an extensive space for which important buildings were planned. The initiative for a theatre was also connected with the rapid development of tourism at the start of the 20th century in the nearby Portorož, which was transformed from a modest settlement into a cosmopolitan tourist resort. In 1906, the Piran municipality entrusted the architect Gioacchino Grassi with the preparation of the conceptual plans. On the basis of these, the Trieste architect Giacomo Zammattio in 1909 created implementation plans, whilst the actual construction was finished in February 1910. The painting and decorative work was carried out under the leadership of the Trieste painter Napoleon Cozzi (1867-1916). The theatre was festively opened on 27 March 1910 with the staging of the tragedy Phaedra by Umberto Bozzini and named after the famous Italian violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini (born 8 April 1692, Piran, died 26 February 1770, Padua).
The Piran theatre building is an interesting example of sufficiently ambitious provincial architecture on the margin of the Habsburg monarchy from the period when the Secession forms began to replace historical ones. Both styles are interwoven in the building’s design without any sharp demarcation lines. The building consists of a number of smaller units, designed on rectangular ground plans. The central part is occupied by the auditorium, in front of which is a somewhat lower section, whilst at the back is the stage. On the southern, sea-facing side, there are two smaller units containing a café and auxiliary rooms. The building’s exterior, particularly its stepped form, hints at the arrangement of the space inside. The main architectural emphasis of the exterior is on the symmetrical main façade. The building has been connected with the sea shore by the addition of a café and a raised terrace. Inside, the largest part of the building is taken by the auditorium, designed as a high-ceilinged longitudinal space on a flat rectangular ground plan with sloping stalls. The auditorium is surrounded by a semi-circular balcony and boxes at the sides. The stage has a large opening with rich stucco decorations. The auditorium ceiling is decorated with eclectic paintings of female figures, representing muses. The stage, which is connected with the auditorium, is a fraction narrower and its relatively small surface area shows that the building was built mainly with the intention of providing the town with a large hall for various social events. Thus it is understandable that during the 20th century relatively few theatre performances were staged there.
As early as in the 1920s the building also started being used for film performances, whilst later it increasingly acquired the character of a public hall, in which various gatherings, festivities and dances were held. Between 1960 and 1963, it was thoroughly renovated. The building was adapted to the functional needs of the time, whilst the desire to comply with the then topical modernist aesthetics led to the removal of numerous internal and external decorative elements. This renovated building was then for a number of decades used primarily for film screenings, and finally closed down. Between 1998 and 2000 the neglected theatre was once more thoroughly renovated. With the help of the preserved original plans and old photographs, the main façade and the auditorium in particular were as far as possible returned to their former state. Now, the theatre is used mainly for conferences, symposia and concerts.