The biggest Italian opera houses and a new season rich in performances
Italy is the birthplace of opera, and numerous are the Italian composers renowned the world over: Paganini, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni, Monteverdi, Salieri, Tartini, Vivaldi, and so on. No less numerous are the international composers that have been inspired by some of their Italian counterparts' most famous pieces. Richard Wagner is only one example: during the second half of the 19th Century, Wagner visited Ravello, where he drew inspiration for his Parsifal, thus bringing international fame to the city.
In honor of this passion for opera, and its ability to unite people around the globe, every year Italy's best opera theatres offer a season rich in a variety of performances. The season most often begins between November and December, and represents a very important moment for Italian culture. Without doubt, one of the most prestigious openings is that of La Scala in Milan, and to prove it some of the biggest names in politics, culture and entertainment attend.Teatro La Scala is usually referred to as “La Scala” and, apart from being one of the most famous opera houses in the world, it is known as the “temple of opera.” La Scala was founded upon the request of Empress of Habsburg Maria Therese of Austria after the fire that in February, 1776 destroyed the Regio Ducale Theatre in Milan. Its current seasonal programming is one of the most important events of Milanese cultural life.
The programme for the 2012-2013 season is entirely dedicated to two composers whose birth bicentennials occur in 2013: Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner. The calendar foresees 21 performances, including 15 operas and six ballets. Of these, eight are productions new to La Scala, while two of those have nothing to do with the two composers: they are Aleksandr Raskatov's "Heart of the Dog," in its first Italian premiere (and adapted from Bulgakov's satirical novel); and "The Silken Ladder," written by a young Gioacchino Rossini as a showcase opera for the Accademia della Scala.
Meanwhile, the ballet season will feature the best of the principal dancers, with Roberto Bolle, Massimo Murru, and Svetlana Zakharova dancing next to stars like Aurélie Dupont, Natalia Osipova, and Ivan Vasiliev.
A wide and exciting array of performances is also promised by another famous temple to music, the Fenice Theatre, the foremost opera house in Venice, located in Campo San Fantin (San Marco district). Repeatedly destroyed by fires and rebuilt to a perfection after the last renovation of 2003, this theatre, in addition to offering its prestigious annual opera season, also hosts the International Festival of Contemporary Music.
Of course, every year La Fenice holds its famous New Years concert, while its 2012-2013 opera season will be marked by both traditional and innovative works, with a theme that straddles the line between repertory and contemporary pieces: "Otello" and "The Bandits" by Giuseppe Verdi, "Tristan Und Isolde" by Wagner, "The Nutcracker" by Pëtr Il'ič Čajkovskij, "The Barber of Seville" by Gioacchino Rossini, "La Bohème" and "Madame Butterfly" by Giacomo Puccini, and several others, to make for a stellar and fascinating season. For lovers of opera and ballet, the city of Rome also offers several inspiring titles. The Capital's main opera stage is in its Teatro dell'Opera, also known as Teatro Costanzi, from the name of its founder, Domenico Costanzi. Pietro Mascagni, artistic director for the Teatro's 1909-10 season, was at the same time an assiduous opera-goer. Today The current director is Alessio Vlad (Catello De Martino is overseer). Ballet enthusiasts will appreciate - if they didn't already know - the fact that in this theatre Stravinskij's “The Firebird” made its premiere, performed by the Ballets Russes (with Sergej Djagilev as director) on April 9th, 1917.
In regards to the operatic season that is about to begin, several great operas are in the works: to begin with, "Simon Boccanegra,” with music by Giuseppe Verdi and direction by Riccardo Muti, will take the stage; to be followed by Minkus's "Don Quixote," and Dmitrij Šostakovič's "The Nose." Not to be left are the rest of the performances at Teatro this season, from “Giselle" by Adolphe Adam and Verdi's “The Two Foscari” to "Samson et Dalila" byCamille Saint-Saëns, "Don Pasquale" by Gaetano Donizetti, and another Verdi masterpiece, “Nabucco.”
While Rome's winter opera season has been at the theatre in Piazza Beniamino Gigli since 1937, Teatro dell'Opera offers an outdoor season in summertime, set in the impressive archaeological complex of the Baths of Caracalla. The opera performances here are always a huge success, with tourists and Romans alike enjoying the combination of operatic theatricality against the enchanting setting of ancient Rome.
The opera house holding the record of most operas performed in the Campania region is most certainly Teatro San Carlo in Naples. Teatro San Carlo was meant to be a substitute for the little Teatro San Bartolomeo. Its construction was completed in 1737 during a period of urban renewal; built by request of King Charles of Bourbon, it not only endowed the city with a new theatre and opera house, it also connoted the power of the royals. The project was entrusted to the architect Giovanni Antonio Medriano, Colonel of the Royal Army, and to Carasale Angelo, former director of the San Bartolomeo.
Decades after its construction, the night of the February 13th, 1816, a fire destroyed the building, leaving only the perimeter walls and the theatre's most recent addition intact. What we see today is in fact its reconstruction after the blaze, followed by a very accurate and detailed restructuring.
This magnificent theatre welcomes opera lovers with a 2012-2013 programme that travels through Neapolitan traditions, and returns to the classics of its operatic-symphonic repertoire; however, this time they are to be re-interpreted by a few special, internationally-famous guests. This season boasts 386 days' worth of programming, breathing fresh air into the theatre with 40 different performances, 7 new installments, 22 concerts and 7 ballets, as well as important debuts and the return of several favorites on this, the oldest operatic stage in Europe.
The programme begins with Giuseppe Verdi's “Traviata,” with direction by Ferzan Özpetek; then moves on to "The Night Bell," a lively and high-spirited comedic work by Donizetti; the fairytale of "Rusalka" by Antonin Dvořák; "Messa da Requiem," Giuseppe Verdi's sacred composition in homage to Alessandro Manzoni and, finally, another Verdi piece, "Rigoletto."