Italy’s Opera Offerings

For opera lovers, the upcoming summer season of glorious music in Italy is something not to be missed.  All over the country festivals are about to open, many in small villages but all the more passionate because the town or village will have a personal tie to the composer whose work will be honoured.    Places like the San Galgano Opera Festival at Chiusdino, Siena that runs from June – August, the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro 10th-23rd August, and dozens more are set to keep opera fans happy during the summer months. My own favourites, the ones I hope to visit each year, are the Verona festival, the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago and the Ravenna Festival, not just because of the music they offer but because they are in areas that allows touring during the day and longer trips on either side of the musicfest.

Arena di Verona

The Arena di Verona is one of the most magnificent arenas in Italy, capable of seating 20,000 patrons per performance but limited to 15,000 for safety reason.  The setting is truly magnificent, open to the elements and capable of staging the world’s most famous operas and adding props like real elephants and camels when the work calls for them.  This year the Arena celebrates 100 years and is offering Aida, Romeo and Juliet, Nabucco, Traviata, Trovatore, Rigoletto, and a Verdi Gala.    Among the special guests for the opening Gala are Placido Domingo, José Carreras and Andrea Bocelli.    June 14th – September 7th.

Verona from the hills outside the city.
Verona from the hills outside the city.

The home of the legendary Romeo and Juliet, there is no lack of sightseeing in Verona itself, but nearby is Lake Garda surrounded by delightful towns, further afield but an easy day trip is Venice, and the Dolomites are on the doorstep.  What could be better.   http://www.arena.it

The Amphitheatre of Verona
The Amphitheatre of Verona

Puccini & ClefThe 59th Puccini Festival takes place in Torre del Lago from July 12th – Augst 24th, a festival created by the great man himself in 1930 and since continued.  The outdoor theatre close to Vlla Mausoleo where Puccini’s remains lie, is a wonderful setting in which to enjoy the music of one of the greatest opera composers of all time.  This year the offerings are Cavalleria Rusticana, Il Tabarro, Tosca, Turandot and Rigoletto. There is little accommodation in Torre del Lago and most visitors to the event choose to stay either at nearby Viarragio or Lucca (my favourite).

Madame Butterfly in Mosaic Tiles in Lucca
Madame Butterfly in Mosaic Tiles in Lucca

Lucca has the Puccini museum, is the only town remaining with its surrounding walls intact, the top of which can be walked or cycled around as they are very wide, and is known as the “tower town” due to the number of intact tall towers there.  A charming cathedral, free concerts in the evenings when not at the opera, some great restaurants, and Lucca could be the prize of the season.  Besides, it is just a short rail journey from Pisa and so perfect for connecting flights.   http://www.puccinifestival.it

Puccini Statue in Piazza in Lucca (beside Museum)
Puccini Statue in Piazza in Lucca (beside Museum)
Magnificent 5th Century Mosaics in Ravenna
Magnificent 5th Century Mosaics in Ravenna

The Ravenna Festival from May to June  is hosted in its many theatres and churches.  The Byzantine basilicas, cloisters and piazzas combine to make a superb backdrop for the art and music on offer.  The finest opera companies with the finest singers converge on this small town for a very special festival, this one the 24th, and apart from opera and classical music, they will offer jazz, films and exhibitions.   http://www.ravennafestival.org

For all other festivals, check out the following site which lists them all.  www.festivalopera.it

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