Italy certainly has flair for the dramatic. It makes perfect sense that opera has its origins here. Verdi and Puccini wrote stories filled with melodrama and heartbreak. The first opera was produced in Florence in 1598. The art form reached its peak of popularity in the 1800s. Don’t forget a handkerchief to wipe away your tears at the tragic death of Floria Tosca and the musical mastery and emotion of O Mio Babbino Caro. Our guide has everything you need to know, from the addresses of the best opera houses in Italy to what to wear and how to get tickets.
What to Wear to the Opera in Italy
A night at the opera is the time to wear the sparkly shoes and snazzy dress that you have been saving. Nowhere more so than Milan. Understated, but supremely elegant, is the dress code there. Men should wear a dark suit and ladies don their finest. The more modest the seats, the less formal your attire needs to be, but this is not the place for shorts, t-shirts and tank tops. Ever.
How to get Tickets to the Opera in Italy
Each of the established opera houses in Italy has online ticketing. You can also stop by the box office, but know that many of the most popular dates and performances sell out far in advance. Italy Perfect guests can engage a local concierge who can help with advice and logistics.
Milan: Teatro alla Scala
The opening night of La Scala, the opera house in Milan, is an evening on par with some of Hollywood’s most glittering events. It is always on December 7, which is the feast day of Saint Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan. The season runs until the end of November. There is a dress code at La Scala. Remember, the Milanese are impossibly elegant. Tours are conducted by appointment at the Ansaldo Workshops where you can see costumes and sets.
Opera in Venice
Venice’s opera house Teatro La Fenice has faced untold challenges. It has endured fires and floods repeatedly living up to its namesake La Fenice, which translates to the mythical bird the phoenix. Giuseppe Verdi premiered many of his operas, including Rigoletto and La Traviata, in this magnificent theater. This is also where the renowned soprano Maria Callas made her debut. The season at La Fenice begins in November, with opera and ballet performances running throughout the year. A highlight of the season is the New Years’ concert. It’s part orchestra performance and part melodrama. The concert always ends with “Va’ Pensiero” from Nabucco and the toast “Libiam ne’ lieti calici” from La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. If you can not attend a show you can still take a tour of the historic theater. There is even an app for that!
For a more casual and interactive opera experience, see a performance by Musica a Palazzo. Nightly performance rotates between La Traviata, The Barber of Seville and Rigoletto in rooms of the 15th-century palazzo Barbarigo Minotto on the Grand Canal. There is no stage, instead the audience sits among frescoes by Tiepolo and stucco work by Tencalla, and moves among different rooms between acts.
Rome: Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
The opera season at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma runs from October until May. Fitting for the Eternal City, the Costanzi Theatre was built on the site of an ancient emperor’s home. The severe Fascist-style facade and foyer were designed by Marcello Piacentini and belies the ornate theater inside, with tiled tiered boxes, frescoes, stucco work and excellent acoustics.
Summer visitors to Rome have a delightful possibility. The ancient Roman baths, Terme di Caracalla, are transformed into an open-air theater during July and August. There are both opera and ballet performances (and an occasional pop concert!)
Naples: Teatro di San Carlo
The Teatro di San Carlo is steps away from the dramatic Piazza del Plebiscito and the royal palace of the former Bourbon Kings. Built in 1737, it is the oldest continuously active opera venue in Europe.
Opera in Tuscany
The only festival dedicated solely to Giacomo Puccini is the annual Puccini Festival. It is held every summer in Torre del Lago, with weekend performances of his best-known works. This Tuscan village, not far from Lucca, overlooking the Lake Massaciuccol, is where the artist lived and worked. You can visit Puccini’s house and see the pianos where he composed some of his many famous operas including Tosca and Madam Butterfly.
Once a year, an empty field in the Tuscan countryside is transformed into a open-air theater. The renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli created the Teatro del Silenzio, near the village of Lajatico, where he was born and still lives. The show is an extravaganza of international stars and choreography. The venue is a lovely country drive away from one of our villas in Chianti San Casciano.
Parma and Verona: the Arena
If you are staying in Emilia Romagna near Parma then you’ll want to visit the home of Verdi. During September and October is the Verdi Festival, which includes celebrations of the food, wine and culture of the region.
In Verona, a truly unforgettable experience is a night at the opera in an open-air amphitheater that was built in the first century. The Arena is in the center of the city of Verona, and the opera season begins mid-June and runs until the first week of September.
Italy Perfect has a property that will have you singing! Contact us at [email protected] or 1-888-308-6123 to reserve your Italian accommodations for opera season and beyond.