The teatro Comunale of Carpi – a town of 67,000 people in northern Italy – opened on 11 August 1861 with a performance of Verdi's Rigoletto. It has since become one of the Emilia-Romagna region's most important municipal theatres, a venue of prestigious recitals both musical and literary, its 582 seats taken up by descending flocks of culture vultures.
The German photographer Candida Höfer, however, has spent the past three decades composing images of cultural spaces entirely devoid of this kind of human intrusion, unearthing rhythms of order in their composition that make poetry of an institutional form and allow viewers to infer the hidden aura of the room.
Here, the dramatic lavishness and, one might suggest, hauteur of Carpi's neoclassical playhouse is a performance in itself, highlighted by the focus in 2011 of Höfer's lens on its breathtaking crescent of boxes – not to mention the four groups of female figures, representing Dance, Music, Poetry and Prose, embellished upon its vault.
Candida Höfer: A Return to Italy is at Ben Brown Fine Arts, London W1 (benbrownfinearts.com) from Tuesday to 12 April