The Carmelite church was built in the 18th century at the heart of the ancient fortified centre of Portoferraio. In the late Napoleonic age, the architect Paolo Bargigli transformed the deconsecrated church into a theatre, which was opened on January 24th 1815. During 19th century the Vigilanti Theatre was the setting for operas, drama and dancing for the island’s high society. In the 20th century, due to economic difficulties, the theatre was closed and fell into decay between the 1920s and 1930s. In 1937 it was turned into a movie theatre, until it was closed once again in 1957. The revival of the Vigilanti Theatre began in the mid-1980s, after a careful restoration, which gave new life to this landmark.
In 1997, the inauguration of the Elba Musical Island of Europe International Festival has contributed decisively to the opening of the theater to the public. Presently, it is named after the world famous lyric tenor Renato Cioni, who was born in 1929 in Portoferraio.