Le Marche's Opera & Concerts
Le Marche has the highest concentration of theatres in the world.
The region boasts a total of 113 theatres dating from the Renaissance to the 19th century which are of great interest to theatre and architecture enthusiasts alike.
Le Marche also has the second largest open-air arena for opera in Italy - the Sferisterio based in the province of Macerata.
For music buffs there is one annual event less than an hour‘s drive north of Montefiore which absolutely must not be missed. This is the annual Opera Festival in the glorious arena of the Sferisterio in Macerata. The quality of the performances is outstanding, and the venue is stunning. It is often compared favourably with the Arena di Verona, and the Caracalla in Rome.
The original sferisterio was built in the 15th century for local people to play and watch their favourite game of Pallone col Bracciale. The game involves wearing a wooden protection on the forearm (bracciale) which is used to hit the ball (pallone) back and forth. It is a little like Royal tennis, but teams can consist of between one and four players.
Players of this game in the 16th century were said to be the best paid athletes in Europe!
The Sferisterio was also used for circuses, and even bull fights! When the traditional game began to lose popularity the arena continued to be used for football , and also for tennis.
The modern arena was erected in the 1820s and has a wall 18 metres high and 88 metres long, with a line of arches separated by 56 columns carrying a double row of boxes and a stone gallery, all in neoclassical style. Opera was first performed here in 1914.
The Opera Festival itself began in 1921 with a performance of Verdi’s Aida, complete with horses and camels, funded by the leading soprano, Francisca Solari. In 1927 the superstar tenor Beniamino Gigli sang a benefit concert here for invalids of the Great War.
The present day festival, beginning in the late 1960’s under the auspices of Macerata Opera, takes place in the arena which has been modernised and provides all the necessary technology for a truly up to date theatrical experience. It seats over 3,500 people and the stage is huge – 14.5 metres deep and 40 metres wide – and the acoustics are wonderful.
There are three or four operas performed during July and August each year, and the focus is on popular Italian Operas. The summer festival was started in 2006 when Pier Luigi Pizzi took over as artistic director.
The time of the operas was also changed so that the audience could also enjoy the spectacular sunset. Great names have sung here, including Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Montserrat caballe, Jose Carreras, Fiorenza Cossotto – the list goes on! You can expect a truly world class evening’s entertainment here.