The Verona Opera Festival
A Divine Symphony
Verona welcomes you to her magical land of the most famous lovers in history, Romeo and Juliet. Verona is also known as Urbs Nobilissima, the second largest city after Venice with one of the best preserved artistic heritage in Italy. It’s as if the stars had come down and were held glittering, sparkling, flickering in the hands of thousands of devotees. Come and experience the one-of-its-kind fascinating venue which is a must-see, must-experience and must-hear Opera Festival at Verona. With a unique atmosphere, the Verona Opera Festival
houses up to 22,000 spectators at a historical site showcasing a series of open-air opera performances. Opening out a dynamic venue at an amazing Roman amphitheatre in the heart of Verona, the festival is the highlight of Verona's musical entertainment and eye-opener to Italian culture. As the epitome of the most sophisticated musical performances, the Verona Opera Festival is an integral part of the summer calendar with professional and world-class performers rendering their best at an immortal festival.
If you are part of the ardent followers of the Verona Opera Festival then just follow the signs for Centro. If you are coming from out of town, then you can use the Verona Nord exit from the A22 which brings you from the west. Then follow the Strada called Montova Verona and take the Verona exit. The road curves a couple of times before you see the signage that directs to through the Porta Nuova. Then as you exit from the A4, you head north. The road leads south from the Valpolicella straight into the town. Historic and medieval, the foundations of the city of Verona date back to the 1st century B. C. Under the rule of the Scaliger family during the 13th and 14th centuries, Verona was part of the Republic of Venice from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Displaying many antique monuments from the medieval and the Renaissance periods, the city has been mainly a Roman military stronghold and outpost.
For the past 2000 years, Verona has progressed historically, artistically and culturally as one of the greatest cities in Italy. Many of Shakespeare’s plays have found a historical setting in this city including the balcony from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ that has drawn thousands of tourists to this spot. The Lion of St. Marks exhibits Verona’s link to the Republic of Venice. As the eye traverses quaint and ancient fortresses, monuments and churches of the ages, the most arresting sight has been the Arena that has been transformed into one of the largest opera houses. Surrounded by nature parks and the Adige River, the Arena is a 2000 year old Roman amphitheater, preserved beautifully and centrally located in the middle of the Piazza Bra. Showcasing the legendary summer music festival, the amphitheater apart from the loss of its decorative marble facade and outer wall, is one of the complete pieces of Roman architecture in Verona. The ancient city of Verona is surrounded by walls about 10 kilometers in length erected by the Scaligeri family. The city itself is divided into four parts or zones. The ancient city with its Roman architecture, the Cittadella division which ranges southwards, San Zeno with its Beautiful Cathedral and the Veronetta a originating from the Early Middle Ages.
Come and explore the vibrating heart of Verona and walk through the buzzing Piazza Bra. This is where the trains stop and all the cars are found parked. Beautiful with the arena close by, the curious tourist will find Via Pallone just outside the Piazza, Museo degli Affreschi and Juliet’s tomb. The Piazza is filled with old and memorable monuments such as the Palazzo della Gran Guardia and the Gran Guardia Nuova from where you can go towards the embankment of the Adige and reach Corso Cavour. Two of Verona’s monuments are located here besides Sanmicheli's Palazzo Canossa, the Romanesque church of S. Lorenzo and the Palazzo Bevilacqua, (an unfinished masterpiece by Sanmicheliano) can also be found by the intrepid traveler. The route leads to Porta Borsari, the main entrance to the Roman city and continues to Piazza delle Erbe. Then the Via Cappello leads out from the Piazza and at No. 23 you will find Casa di Giulietta (the house of Juliet Capulet). Just a short walk will lead to elegant shops.
The Cittadella takes the curious traveler to its center where the Piazza delle Erbe evolves over a historical area filled with monuments and Cathedrals with neoclassical architecture. San Zeno houses the famous S. Zeno Church and the Civic Art Museum. At Veronetta as you cross the Ponte Pietra or the stone bridge, the music loving traveler will find Teatro Romano. As you travel along the embankments, you will find S. Giorgio in Braida built for the Benedictines and finished by Sanmicheli. At the road that leads to Porta Vescovo, you will discover the lovely Giardini Giusti. Verona offers the essence of beauty, culture and the rejuvenating spirit of music.
The Spirit of Talent
Structured as a stadium, the Arena was built just outside the walls of the city in 30 AD. The Roman Government at that time had envisioned the Arena as a stadium for games and also as an area where the ‘ludii’ or the circus could be housed. But after the earthquake of 1117, the original white and pink limestone cladding was destroyed including the outer ring of the Arena di Verona, leaving the ‘ala’ or the wings of the building. But with the advent of the Renaissance and the revival of the classical antiquities, the stadium was gradually brought back into use as a theater.
The ancient beautiful arena silhouetted against the old Roman walls, parks and piazzas is the focal point of the Summer Opera Festival of Verona. The Festival was first started by a group of friends in 1913. Opening the Festival at the spectacular amphitheater with Verdi’s opera ‘Aida’, the Summer Opera Festival was born to give people a taste of the spirit of freedom and talent. Thousands thronged the old amphitheater including opera fans, critics, journalists and musicians from all over the world. Amongst the spectators were the writers Franz Kafka and Maxim Gorky, as well as Puccini. Today, the Festival is regarded as one of the most famous and greatest of musical events much to the satisfaction of the organizers as well as lovers of music.
Considered as the premiere event, the Verona Opera Festival is well-attended by personalities, tourists and the locals. Built with foresight in the 1st century, the amphitheater seats 22,000 people. Incredibly huge large-scale sets for big productions like ‘Aida’, ‘Turandot’ and ‘Carmen’, ‘Tosca’, ‘Madame Butterfly’, ‘Cavelleria Rusticana’ and its traditional counterpart, ‘I Pagliacci’, to name a few, are actually wheeled across the town to decorate the arena. The Verona Arena offers a unique experience with vibrant performances that actually feature even wild cats walking across the stage! Running from late June through August, the performance dates are the same every year. Filled to over-flowing with famous performers like, Placido Domingo and Pavarotti, the arena is not connected with microphones being acoustically perfect.
Reflecting the Cosmos
It is wise to buy tickets in advance or through the internet as all performances are sell-outs. When the spirit of magic invades the senses, the Arena di Verona resounds with an ethereal ambience as you pick up your candle from a box. It is traditional to light a candle before the opera begins. The seating arrangements reflect the original Roman seating with the reserved seating on the floor divided into two sections. The ‘Poltronissime’ is a sloping platform directly in front of the stage. The ‘Poltrone’ at the side of the Poltronissime is also on the floor of the arena with a lateral view. The ‘Gradinata Numerata’ is on the first floor of the surrounding steps. The ‘Gradinata Numerata Laterale is also on the first floor but on the sides of the arena. An interesting fact is that if it rains, you get a refund on the tickets.
The magic of the Arena di Verona is incomparable and has to be experienced to be believed. With the intoxicating elements of the Italian passion for opera, the love of a dramatic performance, an instinctive knowledge that stimulates an awesome performance with an acoustically perfect 2000 year old amphitheater, all of this goes towards the creation of an atmosphere that is unique, joyous and magnetic. The 2000 year old Roman Arena in Verona lies across the Adige River that evokes the early ages where Christians were devoured by the lions, where Maria Callas sang her arias and where the greatest singers have rendered amazing performances close to the balcony where Romeo and Juliet fell in love. As the floodlights go down, the excited babble of voices simmers to expectant whispers… and the night is filled with the glow of candlelight reflecting the warmth of the stars… the Verona Opera Festival begins its unforgettable performance that has prompted its ardent followers to come back over and over again to its dynamic midst.