Opera in Verona - In a Word: Fantastic!
Of all the traveling I’ve done, the trips to the opera festival in Verona, Italy really stand out. Three times my wife and I attended grand opera (and I mean grand opera) at the Arena di Verona and each time was absolutely fabulous. Even if you do not like opera (and if you do not, believe me you don’t know what your missing!), attending the festival is still a memorable occasion. Some background: the Arena is a Roman amphitheater constructed in 30 AD, similar to the Coliseum in Rome (though the Arena is in better shape). Starting in 1913, opera has been performed here every year with the exceptions of during the World Wars I and II. My wife and I have seen, so far, The Barber of Seville, La Traviata, Rigoletto, Tosca, Carmen, and Aida (three times). We also attended a Placido Domingo gala where the venerable tenor performed in Act III of three different operas. (After the gala, we got to meet him and I have a picture of the two of us - quite a thrill for this opera lover, believe me!) In case you’re wondering, Aida, the Giuseppe Verdi opera of love and jealousy in ancient Egypt, is a staple at the festival. I understand the Arena is the largest stage in the world and the productions reflect it - they are simply spectacular. If the work calls for horses ( for instance, the Grand March in Aida), you will see real horses! (After the last act of Barber of Seville, there were fireworks.) Many opera have ballet sequences and they are incredible on this stage - there is so much going on it is almost too much to take in all at once. The orchestra is first rate as well.
The city of Verona itself is in the westernmost portion of the Veneto, that region of northern Italy which used to be part of the Republic of Venice. (Venice, or Venezia, is another wonderful place to visit but that deserves another hub). The major cities of the Veneto region, Verona, Vicenza, and Padova among others, share architectural traits with Venice (which is still the capital of the region). There is much to see in Verona, even if you don’t attend opera, including some wonderful churches, palazzi (palaces), and tombs of famous Veronese. Like many Italian cities, it is a wonderful place just to walk around in. And the food . . . well, it is in Italy after all! Not to mention the wine. (The Veneto is where Valpolicella, Amarone, and Bardolino come from among others. Like white wines? Try Soave.)
A good day in Verona starts with an excellent colazione (breakfast) in one of the outdoor restaurants in Piazza Bra (where the Arena is located and the central part of the old city), a little touring, and then sit down around noon or so for il pranzo (lunch) with a nice bottle of wine. After that, you’ll probably want to go back to the hotel for a little rest! (If you’re there for the opera season, it will be too hot in the afternoon to walk around anyway.) In the evening, a light dinner perhaps, and enjoy walking around the city and seeing the sights (there is also excellent shopping but bring lots of money!) If you are attending the opera, it will most likely start at 9 PM and you won’t get out until after midnight. The outdoor restaurants in Piazza Bra will be open - you will see many people dining and drinking in the wee hours of the morning!
I would be remiss if I did not mention Mr. Robert Schweitzer and his excellent opera tours (we took advantage of his operation all three times). Herr Schweitzer has been doing this for years and his is a first class operation. His package includes lodging at top notch hotels, champagne breakfast, literally the best seats in the Arena, and champagne and hors d’oeuvres between each act. The first night you get to have dinner with the cast of the opera (be prepared to stay out late)! I have included a link to his website below.
For you lovers of good music, good food and wine, and beautiful surroundings, the Verona opera experience is not to be missed. We live in the States now (we used to live in Europe) and we cannot get “across the pond” as much as we used to, but the opera festival is definitely on our “to do soon” agenda! By the way, if you Google Arena di Verona, you will find the website with the current year’s offerings. Enjoy!
Robert Schweitzer's Website
- Arena di Verona - Robert Schweitzer
Arena di Verona - Konzert-Arrangements in die Arena von Verona mit festen Plätzen in der ersten Reihe.