If you’re in northern Italy in the summer, tickets to the Verona Opera Festival at the Arena di Verona are a must!
The setting, the Verona Arena built in the first century, is said to be one of the best-preserved structures of ancient times. Backdrop to Piazza Bra, the near 2000-year old amphitheatre rises in a double storey of multiple arches in concentric circles, a testimony to the ingenuity of the time. During the day it humbly sits as a historical monument, explored by tourists and captured on film as scenes for selfies. In the evening, however, it breathes new life awakening into an unforgettable open-air opera experience delighting spectators with internationally famed performances.
In the distant past, crowds would amass from afar to witness shows and games, and most famously the gladiators. For the past century, the opera has been running almost continuously (with the exception of pauses for the World Wars) and provides seating for an audience of 15 000 people at each show. Running from near the end of June until late August up to six productions are scheduled each year for the Opera Festival.
For the 95th Opera Festival, we’re fortunate to pick up tickets to Rigoletto for its Saturday night debut for the season. The third opera on the program will run for five dates only. With direction by Ivo Guerra, set design by Raffaele del Savio and costumes by Carla Galleri it promised to be a breathtaking performance.
A tragedy by Guiseppi Verdi, the story revolves around the Duke of Mantua, his disfigured court jester Rigoletto, and the jester’s daughter Gilda. Rigoletto, hunch-backed and seemingly unkind has a habit of mocking the courtiers for the merriment of the Duke. This leads one of his emotionally wounded subjects to declare a curse upon Rigoletto. Hanging over the main character’s conscious for the entirety of the story, every malady seems to be a result of the malediction. Despite Rigoletto hiding his daughter away, Gilda falls in love with the Duke, and Rigoletto, unable to persuade her of the Duke’s true nature, sets in motion a plan to have the Duke murdered. Of course, all does not turn out as planned and in a twist of fate, it is Gilda who is slain.
Rigoletto has been on the stage since 1928 and to see it in the Arena is like watching history come alive. Add to the candles that are lit upon arrival, with nothing but the starlit sky as the roof and the powerful voices of the leads filling the air with emotion, and we find ourselves an enchanted evening. Don’t miss it!
*Things to Know Before Attending the Verona Opera Festival
- Padded seating with backs are the most expensive tickets. Seating on the steps is more affordable but do come prepared with cushions for comfort (they can be rented at the Arena, but if you’ve chosen the least expensive tickets, you might not want to spend that cash on your bottom).
- If you’re not fluent in Italian, it’s worth reading the story before the show so that you know what’s going on.
- There are subtitles on either side of the stage. Just remember to look up!
- Allow some time to spend both before and after the show in the plaza, bars or restaurants around the Arena di Verona – the atmosphere is magical.
- Lastly, the show is LONG! Expect to be there for three hours or more, so prepare yourself for the long-haul.
- Don’t miss seeing it at least once! It’s a wonderful experience.
Reasons to visit: an incredible experience that merges history and modernity into one big bundle of magnificence.