TERME DI CARACALLA
On 27 July 1937, Piero Colonna, governor of Rome, called press representatives to present the project, previously approved, to build an open air theatre within the archeological site of the Baths of Caracalla, where from the 1st of August onwards operas would have been performed.
Under the Fascist regime, the Roman Summer had a further venue for music, namely melodrama, along with the Basilica of Maxentius, where in Summer time the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia used to perform.
According to the Governor, it was an experiment, which turned into a usual event both for the citizenry and the international public. Furthermore, it was fundamental to give the then Teatro Reale dell’Opera its final structure and let all theatre artists and technicians work with some continuity.
Defined as "Teatro del popolo", it became more and more an expression of a rediscovered and accomplished popular taste. It is useful to recall that in 1937 the Verona Arena launched its twenty-first opera season.
With its technological plans, designed and set up by Pericle Ansaldo, the stage was places within one of the large rooms near the tepidarium; with 1,500 sqm suerface and a 22 metre proscenium, it became the biggest stage worldwide. The seating plan hosted 8,000 seats, divided into six sectors.
However, the first season was brief, only eight days with five perfomances in total, three of Lucia di Lammermoor and two of Tosca. ‘An unforgettable performance within a frame which is unique in the world, so strikingly powerful that it seems real’, said the first words of an article in Il Giornale d'Italia on the 8th of August, 1937.
The following year, six operas were performed (La Gioconda, Mefistofele, Aida, Lohengrin, Isabeau conducted by Mascagni himself, and Turandot) with 28 performances all toghether, from June 30th to August 15th. The most substantial change was the new and final location of the stage inside the exedra of the calidarium with now a 20,000 people seating plan. The opera season was interrupted by 1944, during WWII. It reopened in 1945 in a triumphant way. From 1945 until 1993 it was a very important reference point for musical culture and perhaps the most evocative venues, among those for open air performances. Unfortunately on the 14th of August, 1993 the curtain was brought down for good over the theatre at the Terme di Caracalla.
Since 2001 operas have been performed at Terme di Caracalla with new logistics, where the monumental ruins are not anymore embedded into the stage, and thus into the performance; still, it is a unique and extraordinary frame for the Summer Teatro dell'Opera di Roma Opera and the Ballet Season.
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla