Claim your ticket to see these classic operas in Italy
Opera began in Italy in 1600, and it's still one of the quintessential Italian experiences you can see performed in stunning venues all over the country.
Italian opera is defined as a dramatic work set over one or more acts, performed to songs by singers and musicians in Italian. Opera means ‘work’ in Italian and performers don’t use microphones as they would in a musical, they use the sheer force of their voices instead. The first public opera house was the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice, which opened in 1637.
Some of the most beautiful theatres to watch Opera in Italy include Teatro La Scala in Milan, Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Massimo Theater in Palermo, and Teatro Argentina in Rome.
Here are six Italian operas to enjoy in their home country:
LA BOHÈME BY GIACOMO PUCCINI
The opera La Bohème is based on the novel Scenes de la vie de Bohème by Henry Murger. It begins on Christmas Eve when a girl called Mimì knocks on the door of four bohemians - a painter, a poet, a musician, and a philosopher, all living in Paris. She falls in love with the poet Rodolfo but he struggles to provide for her when he discovers she is ill. Life is tough for the bohemians and this is explored over the four acts of this story.
MADAME BUTTERFLY BY GIACOMO PUCCINI
Arguably one of the most famous Italian operas of all time, Madame Butterfly tells a story of unrequited love in three acts. The story follows Cio Cio San (meaning butterfly in Japanese), a Japanese girl who falls in love with and marries Lieutenant Pinkerton, an American naval officer. He deserts her after only a brief period of marriage, leaving her with her son. There are tragic consequences when she sees him return to the harbor with a new wife.
LA TRAVIATA BY GIUSEPPE VERDI
Verdi’s La Traviata is a three-act opera based on the Alexandre Dumas play La Dame aux camélias and set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. The name translates to ‘The Fallen Woman’ and it tracks the tale of Violetta, a Parisian courtesan who desires to leave her life in search of love with upper-class Alfredo Germont. It touches on the themes of jealousy, love, envy, and hatred.
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE BY GIOACHINO ROSSINI
Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (also known as The Useless Precaution) is a four-act opera with a libretto by Cesare Sterbini. It is based on the French comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais. The opera retains comedic elements as it follows Figaro, the barber who teams up with Count Almaviva to save a young woman called Rosina from her keeper, Dr. Bartolo.
DON GIOVANNI BY WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Mozart’s Don Giovanni is also a comedy, based on the story of the famous playboy Don Juan. It is a two-act opera with a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Mozart is actually Austrian but Don Giovanni is in Italian and considered one of the best operas of all time. Its central themes are seduction, betrayal, and retribution as Giovanni’s womanizing antics mean his slow descent into hell.
AIDA BY GIUSEPPE VERDI
Another opera by Verdi, Aida is set in old Egypt to a libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. Aida is an Ethiopian princess held captive there while in the midst of a love affair with General Radames. A love triangle is created as the King’s daughter Amneris is also in love with him. More conflict arises against the backdrop of war, as Aida is forced to oscillate between her lover and her desire to protect her country.
Jennifer Sizeland is a freelance writer and assistant producer with 12 years of experience in the media industry. She has written for many publications including the BBC, the Independent, Metro, Manchester Mill, Get Me Giddy, the Media Diversity Institute, Funny Women, and her own sustainability blog called Land of Size. She lives in Manchester. and you can follow her on Instagram at @lifeofsize.