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Behind the scenes of the Opera: facts and curiosities

Behind the scenes of the Opera: facts and curiosities

June 2023

As explained in the article Verona and the Opera: a love story at the Arena, no art form has ever embodied Verona’s cultural essence more than opera.

On the occasion of the centenary of the Verona Opera Festival we would like to walk you through a virtual “behind the scenes”, revealing some curiosities and interesting facts related to the history and traditions of this ancient art.

L’Orfeo: the oldest work

The first attempts to put drama to music date back between the 16th and 17th centuries and used to have mythological and pastoral stories as their main subject. Indeed, one of the first melodramas has been L’Orfeo, composed by Claudio Monteverdi who took inspiration from Greek mythology.

The first performance took place in 1607, in the Gonzaga ducal palace in Mantua.

Opera’s different voice types

When it comes to terminology, it is worth pointing out the differences between male and female voices. Male singers are divided into bass, baritone and tenor. The bass is the grave male voice, often attributed to elderly or funny characters. The baritone often impersonates the villain, with the voice between low and high. Finally, the tenor, the highest-pitched male voice, is usually the protagonist or the hero.

Female voices, on the other hand, are divided into contralto, mezzo-soprano and soprano. Alto is the most serious one, usually assigned to the dramatic character. Mezzo-soprano is intermediate between grave and high-pitched and often features the soprano’s antagonist or rival. Soprano is generally the female lead, with a positive role.

Maria Callas and La Carmen by Bizet

La Carmen is a famous opera by George Bizet. It is set in Seville and tells the troubled love story between José and Carmen. It is among the most popular operas not only of the Arena di Verona opera season, but of any festival dedicated to opera.

Maria Callas never wanted to play the protagonist of this opera, claiming that she didn’t have the right stage presence: according to her, her massive bone structure and ankles were not made for dancing, if not awkwardly.

Nevertheless, in 1964 she recorded the opera under the direction of maestro Georges Prêtre. Although she never performed the character of Carmen on stage, her recorded performance represents a landmark in the history of opera.

The meaning of “tableau”

“Tableau”, from French, literally translates into “picture”. In the theatrical context, this expression indicates the moment in which the protagonists and the chorus must stay still.

Generally, it is expected at the end of each act and it lasts a few seconds so that, just like with a painting, the audience can appreciate the scenography, choreography and costumes. And, of course, has time to give a round of applause.

The most performed composer in the world

Giuseppe Verdi conquers the podium of the composer whose works are the most represented in the world, followed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and, in third place, by Giacomo Puccini. Verdi’s La Traviata, which tells the tragic love story between a young man from a good family, Alfredo, and a courtesan suffering from tuberculosis, Violetta, boasts 19,000 performances and almost 3,000 productions.

The current season includes six evenings dedicated to Verdi’s La Traviata. You can consult the dates and the rest of the program by visiting the page dedicated to the Arena Opera Season.

Don’t miss the upcoming events; thanks to our Arena Opera Festival Package you can enjoy an evening of opera under the stars with many benefits reserved for our Guests!

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