Antonietta Pisanelli Alessandro

601 Union Street (1869 – 1957)Antonietta Pisanelli Alessandro - Italian History

Born in Naples, Pisanelli came to San Francisco via New York in 1905 following the loss of her mother, husband, and youngest son, but her determination and spirit could not be deterred. On April 9 of that year she made her Grand San Franciscan debut as a memorable Neapolitan singer and stage actress at the Apollo Theater; she created an instantaneous following.

Pisanelli was not just a voice and beauty, but also a successful businesswoman. She saved her money and quickly purchased Apollo Hall, but sold to acquire a more sophisticated theater at this location called Bersaglieri Hall later in 1905. The fire department shut her down for fire code violation, but that did not dim the spirit of a self-made woman. Overnight, she rebuilt and reopened as Circolo Famigliare Pisanelli as it remained until the day she sold it, three days before the 1906 earthquake!

She went on to own Washington Square Theater and was an integral part of a thriving Italian Theatre scene in San Francisco. Pisanelli is remembered as a brilliant canzonettista, a key character in the establishment of San Francisco Italian theater, and a courageous and intelligent businesswoman; a role rarely played by woman of her era.