The Summer Whimsy of an Open Air Opera

The Summer Whimsy of an Open Air Opera

Julie Jurden

Summertime brings a myriad of activities that draw us out of our winter cocoons and welcome us into the vastness of fresh air, lush nature, and endless open skies. If you’re lucky, you get to do more than hustle the kids around to their summer activities, or worse, be chained to the office desk all day. Hopefully, there are swimming pools, barbecues, campfires with marshmallows, time in the garden, and maybe a few lovely afternoons swaying in a hammock with a tall glass of lemonade. 

Ah, summer.

Photo Credit: LuigiConsiglio

One of our favorite summer pastimes is getting outside for some of the great outdoor musical performances that come with the season. Yes, there are music festivals and numerous concerts just about everywhere you go, but Italy has some of the finest venues and programs for indulging in the experience of an open-air opera.

As you might expect, opera was actually born in Italy—it has its roots specifically in Florence in the early 1600s. And it also touts some of the greatest composers in the world, including Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, and Puccini. Even great composers from other countries wanted their theatrics performed on the stages of Italy.

But the special thing about listening to opera in an outdoor theater is that not only do you get to see and hear some of the greatest performances and stories ever told, but you also gain the benefit of the beautifully lit night sky for added ambiance. And the energy and festive atmosphere are completely different than what you might experience inside a more confined opera house. It’s often much more casual and conducive to social interaction versus the quiet and restrictive formality of an indoor opera house.

Across Italy are a number of summer opera programs carefully orchestrated and visually mastered ready for the barrage of tourists to fully enjoy. And usually the venue adds to the specialness of the evening. 

For instance, the Opera Festival at the Arena di Verona, the oldest opera festival in the world. For more than a hundred years now, this Roman amphitheater is transformed from June to September into the world’s largest open-air opera theatre. The stunning ancient structure can host up to 15,000 guests, which is perfect for the summer festival which typically showcases approximately five works and 45 total performances.

In Rome, the Teatro dell’Opera performs part of their summer season in the Opera di Roma Festival at the Terme di Caracalla, a most magical archeological site of the Roman Baths and the most unique spot for a theatrical stage. With 8,000 seats, you can expect to choose from three theatrical works in this striking setting.

At the Festival Puccini held in Tuscany’s Torre del Lago, where the composer lived, composed most of his operas, and is buried nearby, you can enjoy between 4 and 5 performances of four operatic works along with the more than 40,000 spectators the festival attracts each year.

 There are so many great operas and venues, far too many to mention. But luckily for all of us, there are options here in the U.S. that often host opera indoors and out. One of the great outdoor features for many locations, like Ravinia or Millennium Park in Chicago, or Central Park in New York, is that you can watch performances while picnicking on the sprawling lawns. 

 And that offers us another opportunity to pack some of our favorite Italian dinnerware pieces along with a great bottle of wine.

Our Mediterraneo collection is a perfect option for serving up beautiful summer fruits or a refreshing tomato salad as you take in Verdi’s La Traviata. Or serve up a crumbly, nutty cheese and a crusty baguette from your Legna olive wood board while you sit back and listen to Puccini’s La bohème.

No matter what your choice of musical genre, take full advantage of these final weeks of summer before the season slips away. Seek out a festival or concert of any size. Grab your best friend or the family and pack a delicious meal. Stretch your arms and legs across your picnic blanket and sip that luscious pinot noir or crisp rosé. Enjoy the moment and listen with your whimsical summer heart.

“Opera is one of the most important art forms. It should be listened to and appreciated by everyone.” --Luciano Pavarotti