"Operas in the Arena" Top 5 Page for this destination Verona by Nemorino

Verona Travel Guide: 1,767 reviews and 4,550 photos

First scene of Carmen

On my visit to Verona in August 2006 I saw three open-air opera performances in the Arena di Verona: Verdi's Aida, Bizet's Carmen and Puccini's Madama Butterfly. What they had in common was that all three productions were by the same stage director, Franco Zeffirelli (born in 1923), who also designed the stage sets for all three.

Zeffirelli has a reputation for being spectacular and sentimental. He is very popular with some audiences, but serious opera critics tend to pan his productions, calling them "sprawling" and "grotesquely overdone". He is often accused of creating "operatic excess" using "monumental sets and glitter". He likes to have his huge stage sets filled with hundreds of lavishly costumed extra players and dancers. Obviously he prefers to work at large opera venues where money is no object, such as the New York Met, the Vienna State Opera and London's Covent Garden -- and of course at the massive Arena di Verona.

Since the Arena is such an ideal venue for his kind of staging, the only surprising thing is that he didn't start earlier. His first opera production at the Arena wasn't until 1995. That was his Carmen production, which is the same one I saw in 2006.

Please see my Nightlife tips for further details on operas in the Arena.

Besides staging operas, Zeffirelli also has another connection with Verona, because in 1968 he made a highly successful film version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. At "Juliet's House" in Verona you can see her original, absolutely genuine bed. No, not the bed that anybody by that name might have used in the fourteenth century, but the one used for the love scene in Zeffirelli's film.

Since Verona is so proud of Romeo and Juliet, you might wonder why they don't perform operas about them. They have done so only twice in 85 years. In 1939 they did three performances of Giulietta e Romeo by a now-forgotten composer called Riccardo Zandonai (1883 - 1944), and in 1977 they did six performances of Roméo et Juliette by the French composer Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893).

Personally I rather like Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, and am listening to a recording of it as I write this, but it has unfortunately never been very popular in Italy, so they have never revived that 1977 production.

Update 2008: To my surprise, they actually did two performances of Roméo et Juliette in the summer of 2008, on Saturday 16 August and Tuesday 19 August. (Maybe they read this page, LOL?)

Update 2011: Not only that, they have announced a new production of Roméo et Juliette for August 2011, with a ?cast of which is composed in its majority by young promising artists debuting at the Arena, and with a new set design?. They even say that ?this new production for the 2011 programme wants to enter the annual repertoire of the Opera Festival? ? and they are promoting it with a very well-done flash mob video on their website and on YouTube -- including Juliet singing a few bars from her very own fake balcony in Verona.

Update 2012: For the summer of 2012 they have again scheduled four performances of Roméo et Juliette, on July 7, 14, 21 and 26. For some reason, the tickets for Roméo et Juliette are less expensive than for the other operas.

They don't do ballets any more in the Arena, but they used to, and the one they did the most often in those years was Romeo e Giulietta by Sergej Prokofiev (1891 - 1953).

As on all my VirtualTourist pages, the photos here are all ones I have taken myself, so please don't use them for anything without asking me.

  • Last visit to Verona: Aug 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (49)

Comments (63)

  • IreneMcKay's Profile Photo
    Oct 25, 2014 at 2:30 AM

    Lovely page. Pleased to hear that a lot of Verona's centre is pedestrianized Irene

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Oct 27, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    Enjoyed reading your Verona page!

  • IreneMcKay's Profile Photo
    Sep 20, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    Great page. Debating whether to put this on our Christmas to visit list. Irene

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Sep 20, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      Irene, thanks for your visit to my Verona page. I have never been there in the winter, so I don't know how it would be then. But I went mainly for the operas in the Arena, which of course are only in the summer.

  • Roadquill's Profile Photo
    Aug 3, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    Hi Don, yes Chernobyl was a eiree as those pictures. Especially in the police station. Nice Verona info. Karl

  • Regina1965's Profile Photo
    Mar 8, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    I very much enjoyed reading your opera tips :) I, personally, like to dress up for the opera, but then I don´t go there too often. So many things I want to comment on here... but will just say - loved reading your tips :)

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Feb 2, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    Wow! Would have been amazing seeing the Opera's in the Arena! What a huge crowd, and the "set's" are fantastic!

  • picek's Profile Photo
    Jan 31, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    I've just found out we'll be probably in Verona for one night this Saturday! I hope it won't be too cold for cycling, but they promise minus... your page as always has some very good practical tips and vivid descriptions of opera are nice to read:)

  • FruitLover's Profile Photo
    Jun 6, 2011 at 10:55 PM

    Ciao Don, so much to see in Italia, haven't been yet to that beautiful city. Thanx for sharing. Greetings from Jerusalem, Avi

  • Redang's Profile Photo
    Mar 11, 2011 at 1:58 AM

    I chose that hotel thanks to a VT member (and Iewanted something close to the station as I used the trains very much)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Oct 21, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    Hello, Don! Thanks for your wonderful story! ><><><><


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