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Why & Where to Experience Opera in Italy

Last updated on February 21, 2020

Do you dream of taking a trip to Italy? From the food to the history and art, it’s no surprise this beautiful country is the third most visited in Europe. And with its long list of famous venues, composers and singers too, it’s also considered the spiritual home of opera. The art form was invented here after all…

Many believe Italian to be the best language of all to sing opera in. As you wander the streets of one of its beautiful towns at night, you may even be lucky enough to overhear the powerful tones of a local performer. 

A Brief History of Opera

Italian Opera in Milan

The art of opera is understood to have started in Italy in the 16th century. The first recognised operatic performance – Orfeo, by Monteverdi – was held in Mantua in 1607. Though still performed now, Orfeo was not heard outside of Italy until some 300 years later. 

Gradually opera went on to explode across Europe in the 18th century, with opera houses built in all major cities and new stories commissioned each season.

The art form was first built around the qualities of the singer, but this balance shifted in the 19th century as composers such as Giuseppi Verdi became national heroes. Countries meanwhile became famous for different operatic styles. 

Opera became only more disparate in the 20th century as trends took composers, performers and audiences in wildly different directions.

Best Opera Houses and Shows in Italy

Teatro Comunale Bologna
Teatro Comunale Bologna

Milan: Teatro Alla Scala

Rome: Teatro dell’opera di Roma

Bologna: Teatro Comunale

Venice: Teatro La Fenice

Palermo: Teatro Massimo

Pisa: Teatro Verdi

Naples: Teatro di San Carlo

Parma: Teatro Regio di Parma

Torino: Teatro Regio di Torino

Verona: Arena di Verona

Notable Italian Opera Figures

Luciano Pavarotti

Throughout the years many of the world’s greatest composers have hailed from Italian shores. Household names include Puccini, Verdi, Bellini and Salieri, the latter a contemporary of Mozart. 

Its singers are also widely regarded as the best in history. The mere mention of names such as Luciano Pavarotti, Enrico Caruso and Andrea Bocelli is enough to stir the emotions.  

The Puccini Opera Festival 

The Puccini Opera Festival 

From Milan to Venice and Verona, first-class opera can still be enjoyed throughout much of Italy today. Yet it’s the Puccini Festival in Tuscany that year after year promises some of the most special experiences travellers are likely to encounter.

Featuring some of Puccini’s best-loved works including Madame Butterfly, Tosca and La Boheme, the festival attracts some 40,000 visitors to an open-air arena overlooking Lake Massaciuccoli.

Puccini himself, who lived and worked in the area for 30 years, is buried a short distance away.

The season runs from mid-July to mid-August. In between performances you’ll be able to relax on sandy beaches and discuss the majesty of what you’ve just seen.

Are you an opera aficionado? Take a trip to its historical home and enjoy a holiday to remember.

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