When you think of opera in a lovely al fresco setting, the Arena di Verona is definitely the first that comes to mind; one can only appreciate its beauty and the quality of the plays and concerts.
Italy offers a large number of excellent arenas, and today I want to talk about the Sferisterio of Macerata in the Marche. A much younger and somewhat smaller arena than the one in Verona, it is still impressive both in its beauty, the quality of its acoustics and the standard of the operas performed. It is definitely considered to be one of the best around. The arena contains all the requirements for an unforgettable experience. Imagine a beautiful, warm summer evening, the sky painted by millions of stars and you are looking at a huge stage which attracts some of the greatest interpreters of the musical arts in the world!!
It was opened in 1829 but not for the performance of opera; in fact, for nearly a century it hosted sports shows, especially the Palla al Bracciale. This is possibly one of the most ancient ball games in Europe, going back to Roman times. Two teams of three players try to keep a heavy leather ball from touching the ground, using a spiky wooden arm guard – the Bracciale. Sadly it is now only now played in a few places in Le Marche and Tuscany.
In 1920 the Sferisterio, after having been a football field for a short period time, was restored and transformed into a structure suitable for opera.
Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida was the first opera staged in the arena in 1921, under the auspices of the town’s theatrical society led by Count Pieralberto Conti.
Macerata Opera Festival
In 1967 the Sferisterio became the ‘Circolo Lirico’ of Le Marche under the direction of Carlo Perucci, and in a very short time be brought to the Arena two extraordinary theatrical representations; Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello with Del Monaco and Aldo Protti; Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini with Antonietta Stella and Nicola Tagger. On August 3, the lights went out and left the notes of Verdi lingering in the evening air. The ‘Macerata Opera Festival’ has gone from success to success and the Sferisterio has become one of the most coveted events of open air opera in Italy, attracting the creme de la creme of the opera world to perform in its magical arena.
For the past 25 years ‘Musicultura’ (initially known as Premio Recanati) has been the other major event of the Sferisterio and other neighboring cities and has established itself as one of the most innovative Italian music festivals.
The mixture of creativity, poetry and folk music has meant that this festival has quickly become one of the most important of its kind to be broadcast on radio and Italian television.
If you have a passion for opera and want to experience these magical, perhaps sometimes surreal moments and happen to be in Le Marche region in the months of July or August, do not forget to book a night at the Sferisterio!
Ciao for now