The greatest love stories are eternal, with no beginning and no end, just like Verona’s relationship with music. Today, Verona is world-famous for its annual Arena Opera Festival which attracts millions of music-lovers every year. However, the city’s bond with great music goes much deeper and dates back even further.
Music and Verona: a love story as old as the hills
Back in the mediaeval era and later during the Renaissance, a time of much musical activity in Verona, the city was the place for musicians and performers, not just from Italy but from abroad too. For both religious and secular music, Verona became one of Italy’s biggest cultural centres. It was an historic period that saw the creation of the Accademia Filarmonica di Verona, the oldest musical academy in Europe, founded in 1543 by the merger of the Accademia degli Incatenati and the Accademia Filarmonica. Over subsequent decades, the reputation of the Accademia Filarmonica di Verona grew to the point that it incorporated other music institutions in the city, such as the Accademia alla Vittoria, in 1584. The academy is still active today, with a cultural and musical focus that remains as strong as ever. The Accademia organises many events and programmes, including literary ones, as part of its work, the highlight of which is the ‘Il Settembre dell’Accademia’ concert season, an international festival which has seen many orchestras perform at the Teatro Filarmonico, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Scala Philharmonic, the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecila, conducted by such leading names as Pierre Boulez, Antonio Pappano, Georges Prêtre and Riccardo Muti.
Did you know?
During the 1700s, the city hosted the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.Still not yet 14 years old, the musical prodigy arrived in Verona in 1769, during his first visit to Italy, and performed in the Sala Maffeiana and San Tommaso Cantuariense church, where you can still admire the organ that was touched by the fingers of the child prodigy, one of the greatest musicians of all time.
We recommend that you visit the splendid 17th century Teatro Filarmonico for the winter concert season presented by the Fondazione Arena di Verona, as well as a variety of other music concerts and events. At the same time, the Teatro Ristori regularly plays host to wonderful musical events (as well as theatrical and dance events) ranging from classical to jazz and contemporary music.
Music is a machine for the suppression of time. (Claude Lévi-Strauss)
The soundtrack to a Verona summer’s day
When summer comes around, Verona becomes the place to be for music! In spring and summer, there is no doubt that the Arena takes centre stage. The Arena’s musical odyssey usually begins in April with the first contemporary music concerts and continues until early October: over the years, the world’s greatest musical artists have performed at what is, in any number of ways, one of the most amazing venues in the world. Those stars include Elton John, Bob Dylan, Zucchero and Sting. Going back a bit further, there was the Festivalbar singing contest, which was succeeded by the Wind Music Awards.
Talk about pop music: During the 1970s and 80s, a band called the Gatti di Vicolo Miracoli arrived on the Verona music scene. This pop group, inspired by the world of cabaret, was formed by Gianandrea Gazzola, Spray Mallaby, Umberto Smalia, Nini Salerno, Franco Oppini and later joined by Jerry Calà. Founded in the classrooms of the Scipione Maffei school, the band became part of Italian television history by performing the theme tunes for several TV programmes. If you are very young, you might not remember them. Despite my youthful complexion, I remember them very well! Have you ever heard their “Verona Beat”?
The main event in Verona and the Arena comes in June and marks the start of summer: the Arena Opera Festival. The centrepiece of any summer in the city, it is one of the world’s leading opera festivals. It began in 1913, with a production of Aida to mark the centenary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi. The reputation of the festival grew in subsequent years and today it still sets the standard for opera lovers across the globe who dream of taking their places on the marble steps of one of the world’s best preserved Roman amphitheatres to listen to the most famous arias sung by the biggest names in opera.
The stars of opera
Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Josè Carreras: the three tenors were regulars here in Verona, as was the great conductor Franco Zeffirelli, who was the producer and scenographer for many productions. And what can we say about the most famous soprano of all time, the extraordinary Maria Callas? Did you know that La Divina married a Verona man at the start of her career? The industrialist Giovanni Battista Meneghini became her husband right at the outset of her stunning career which saw her delight audiences in Italy’s leading theatres. Watching an opera performance in the Arena is a dream come true, something which you have to try at least once in your life.
Turn up the volume!
Also in spring and summer, there are the unmissable music festivals and concerts at the Teatro Romano, including the Rumors Festival and the Festival della Bellezza. In a more intimate and less mainstream setting compared with the majestic Arena, do not miss these highly sought-after events and elegant concerts in the enchanting surroundings of the Teatro Romano overlooking the Adige river. However, there is no musical off-season in Verona. Whilst the summer might be the highlight, at any time of the year you will not struggle to find places in the city such as bars, theatres and special events where you can enjoy performances that both move and thrill you.
Music starts where stops the power of words. (Richard Wagner)
What more can we say? In Verona we can’t live without beauty, we have got too used to it. And what is more beautiful and captivating than music?