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TO FEB. 29

The notion of Italy as equal parts beauty and decay is at least as old as Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. But a new exhibit of photographs of theaters in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region shows that the idea is still alive and well. (The Teatro Farnese in Parma is pictured.) From a distance, these swooping images of centuries-old wedding-cake interiors are gorgeous. (My favorite is the 1865 theater in Forli whose color scheme is midnight blue, sky blue, and pale blue with gold detailing.) But on closer examination, the photographs—which were taken explicitly to celebrate recent efforts to preserve these buildings—document myriad small blemishes, none of which could have been lost on photographer Riccardo Vlahov and his team of five assistants. In one theater in Parma, the gold-painted plaster is chipped, revealing the white underneath; in another theater across town, the red velour that covers the seats is significantly worn. In Ravenna, the stage is covered by dirty tracks, and in Bologna, a fresco is divided by a meandering crack. Even so, after taking in the exhibition’s sumptuous photographs as a whole, you’ll want to hop the first flight to Italy and head straight for the box office. On view from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, to Tuesday, Feb. 29, at the Italian Cultural Institute, 1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 104. Free. (202) 387-5161. (Louis Jacobson)