Italy’s Opera Festival celebrates its 89th anniversary this year with a series of performances featuring the works of Italy’s favourite opera composers Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini.
The performances take place in take place in the Arena di Verona, a 30,000 strong stone seated ancient Roman Amphitheatre.
The first operas were performed in 1913 in celebration of the centenary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi and were produced by the tenor Giovanni Zenatello and the theatre impresario Ottone Rovato. Their staging of Aida in the biggest open-air lyrical theatre in the world began a long-standing tradition that endures today.
Here is our guide to the main opera’s taking place during this year’s festival.
La Traviata – 4 and 11 August 2011
La Traviata translates to ‘The Fallen Woman’ and is a three-act Verdi opera set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Its debut performance was jeered in 1853 due to the insistence during that era that the role of the lead character, a young dying of consumption, played by an overweight 38-year old male. Verdi appealed to the manager of the La Fenice venue but to no avail and this led to one of Verdi’s most famous letters to his friend Muzio “La Traviata last night a failure. My fault or the singers? Time will tell.”
Aida – 7, 14, 28 and 31 August 2011
In 1869, the Khedive (Viceroy of Egypt) commissioned Italian, Pietro Avoscani, to build an opera in celebration of the opening of the Suez Canal. The result was ‘Aida’, an opera based on a scenario written by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette. The Khedive was so impressed with the performance that he awarded Verdi with the title of ‘Commander of the Ottoman Order’.
Nabucco – 5, 12, 21 and 25 August 2011
Nabucco is Verdi’s third opera and is based on the Biblical story and the 1836 play by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornue of the same name. It follows the Jewish struggle under Babylonian King Nabucco where they faced being assaulted, conquered, and subsequently exiled from their homeland. The historical events are used as background for a romantic and political plot.
La Bohème – 6, 13, 19, 26 and 30 August 2011
Since its debut in Turin in 1896, La Bohème has become part of the standard Italian opera repertory and according to Operabase, is the fourth most frequently performed opera worldwide. In 1946, fifty years after the opera’s premiere, Arturo Toscanini, who conducted the debut, conducted a performance of it on radio with the NBC Symphony Orchestra which remains the only recording of a Puccini opera by its original conductor.
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