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What better way to experience the many layers of the history of Italy than to see Italian operas in a 1st century arena located in the city of Verona?
That is the proposition of the Arena di Verona, a venue that is still in use today and is internationally recognized for the large-scale opera performances staged in that setting. In fact, historically the opera community in the city of Verona has supported some very important artists. For example, there is a special exhibition about the life of the amazing opera singer Maria Callas that is open until September, which helps underscore the significance of Verona in launching her career.
There is a summer opera festival in Verona that started in June and ends in August featuring a number of important works. In one weekend during the festival this year the Arena di Verona presented Aida, La Traviata and Carmen, three very different, yet wonderful operas that are certainly top-shelf. The warm temperatures and naturally good acoustics of the arena allowed all of these operas to shine, and gave them a novel setting as compared to a theatre.
La Traviata consistently hovers around #1 in operabase and is one of the most popular operas in the modern repertory. It was first performed on the 6th of March, 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in nearby Venice. The combination of the captivating music by Verdi, a strong performance by the soprano playing the protagonist Violetta, and the outdoor setting helped give a fresh look at this classic love story.
While not an Italian opera, it has remained popular in Italy. The strong passion that drives Carmen along with the setting of the opera in Spain with the undertones of the Gypsy culture have propelled the main character of Carmen to a position of prominence within the opera world. The story has gained recognition beyond opera with productions done in theatre, film, and dance, perhaps most notably Carlos Saura’s amazing film version featuring a flamenco adaptation. The legendary Franco Zeffirelli directed the production of Carmen for Arena di Verona that opened this summer and featured over-the-top action on stage including a host of dancers, singers, soldiers on horseback, and lively colors.
The first 20th-century operatic production at the arena was a staging of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida. It took place on the 16th of August in 1913 to mark the 100th anniversary of Verdi’s birthday. The full-scale production of Aida mounted this summer by Gianfranco de Bosio was evocative of earlier productions, featuring elements of Egypt in the staging, as well as a stellar cast to bring the story to life.
There is certainly something for everyone, whether an experienced opera-goer or first-time attendee, at the marvelous 1st century arena in Verona. The opera festival is continuing through the end of August.
Here is a link for more information about the programs at the arena: http://www.arena.it/en