Italy’s Great Theatres


The world’s most famous opera house, Teatro alla Scala is considered the king of opera houses with its elaborate neoclassical design. Founded in 1778 under the auspices of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, the first ever performance was Europa Riconosciuta by the Verona-born composer Antonio Salieri. La Scala underwent a major restoration and modernisation in 2001-2004. We highly recommend you take in a performance here during your stay in Milan - be it opera, ballet, or other types of concerts - to experience the grandeur.
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Venice’s opera house has had an illustrious history, as indicated by its name La Fenice: The phoenix. First inaugurated in 1792, the theatre has been burnt to the ground once and been struck twice more by devastating fires. Its most recent renovation took place in 2003, styled using the original 19th century design. You’ll see the insignia of a gold phoenix in the theatre’s entranceway. Opera lovers can enjoy concerts that infuse contemporary styles into traditional works, ensuring opera maintains its relevance in modern society.
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It’s worth visiting Verona for the Arena di Verona alone. As the world’s largest opera theatre, and the second biggest open-air theatre in Italy after Rome’s Colosseum, it’s an absolute masterpiece of Roman architecture, where incredible acoustics meet a remarkable and romantic atmosphere. Built in 30 A.D., the amphitheatre’s original capacity was 30,000 people but today performances are limited to half that number. The Arena has been hosting an annual summer festival of opera since 1913, to celebrate the centenary of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. Aside from opera, Arena di Verona holds international rock and pop sensations, and is destined to be in the limelight when it’s used for the closing ceremony of the 2026 Winter Olympics and not to mention its 100-year anniversary in 2023!
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The largest opera house with arguably pitch-perfect acoustics lies in the island capital of Sicily. The opera house opened its doors in 1897 and was dedicated to King Victor Emanuel II. It’s a wonderful example of Italian-style architecture with its curving Renaissance forms and decadent gold and red interiors. You can experience the opera house more intimately on a daily guided tour, where you can go backstage and even go up to the roof terrace for beautiful views over Palermo. No tour is ever the same as the set changes based on what’s on the theatre schedule.
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Originally opened as the Teatro Costanzi in 1880, with its principal performance of Semiramide by Gioachino Rossini, Rome’s own historic opera house has undergone numerous modifications and name changes in the past 200 years. In the summertime, the opera house takes its performances outdoors to the unique complex and Roman archaeological site, the Baths of Caracalla, for a magical night of opera under the stars.
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As Italy’s second oldest opera house, built in 1763, it is also arguably the most authentic when it comes to its 18th century architecture, having not succumbed to the tragedy of bombings or fire, unlike most of the country’s historic theatres. You can enjoy opera and symphonic performances here all year round.
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Not strictly a theatre, this 19th century church was founded by the English community of Florence and is located inside an ancient Medici Palace. You can spend a night enjoying an intimate critically acclaimed operatic performance, where you are in close proximity to the performers. 
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