La Scala opera house, Milan

5 of Italy’s Top Opera Houses

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As the birthplace of opera, Italy is one of the best places in the world to enjoy this musical art form. ItalyNewsOnline looks at 5 of Italy’s top opera houses.

Teatro Alla Scala (La Scala) Milan

Italy's opera houses - La Scala Milan

Probably the world’s most famous opera house was inaugurated in 1778. A previous theatre, the Teatro Regio Ducale, was destroyed by fire in 1776. The new theatre was built on the location of the Church of Santa Maria alla Scala, from which it gets its name.

Its current lay-out dates from the renovation in 1907. However, it was bombed during WWII, reopening in 1946 following repairs.

Most of the greatest operatic artists, including Luciano Pavarotti, have performed at La Scala.

Teatro La Fenice, Venice

Image: Pietro Tessarin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1792 opera house was named Teatro La Fenice “The Phoenix” in reference to the company’s ability to “rise from the ashes”. First there was a fire, then the loss of the former quarters. Since being named La Fenice, the theatre has burned down and been rebuilt twice more.

The new theatre opened in 2003 after the fire of 1996. It was rebuilt in 19th-century style based on the design by architect Aldo Rossi and and using detailed photographs of the inside obtained from the opening scenes of Luchino Visconti‘s 1954 film Senso.

Teatro Massimo, Palermo

Italy's opera houses - Teatro Massimmo, Palermo
Image: Matthias Süßen ( Licence: CC BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons

Teatro Massimo is the largest opera house in Italy, and one of the largest in Europe (the third after the Opéra National de Paris and the K. K. Hof-Opernhaus in Vienna). It is particularly renowned for its perfect acoustics.

Designed by Italian architect Giovan Battista Filippo Basile, following his death his son oversaw the rest of the theatre’s construction. Basile senior was well known in Sicily for his previous cathedral restoration design in the city of Acireale. He also carried out garden and villa designs in the city of Palermo and Caltagirone.

Filming of the final scenes of the film Godfather Part III took place there.

See also: Italy’s latest UNESCO intangible cultural heritage submission is opera

Teatro di San Carlo, Naples

Italy's opera houses - Teatro di San Carlo from the Royal Box
Image: Viva-Verdi under license: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Teatro di San Carlo is the oldest public opera in Europe in continuous operation. It was inaugurated in 1737. All the greatest Italian artists, such as Niccolò Paganini, Bellini, Rossini and Verdi, have performed at least once in their lifetime there.

After the fire of February 13th 1816, which destroyed a large part of San Carlo, the theatre was almost entirely rebuilt.

Teatro Comunale di Bologna

Italy's opera houses: Teatro Comunale di Bologna

Inaugurated in 1763, the Teatro Communale di Bologna was the first major opera house to be constructed with public funds and owned by the municipality.

It is a beautiful example of the era’s baroque art and architecture. It opened its doors with a performance of Gluck’s II trionfo di Clelia.

In January 2022, the theatre was the first in Italy to appoint a woman as the musical director.

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