FROM GLADIATORS TO LYRICS: Arena di Verona’s 2022 season kicks off

“Verona, with its old walls that surround it, its bridges with crenellated parapets, its long, wide streets, its memories of the Middle Ages, has a great air that commands respect.”

Paul Valéry

The Arena, in the heart of the city of Verona, is a Roman amphitheater and one of the icons of the Veneto region. Built in the 1st century AD, it was designed, like all the arenas of the time, for Roman games, it means full days that usually began with the venationes (fights between animals and humans), going on with the putting to death of the condemned and ending with gladiatorial combat.

Today the Arena of Verona is the third largest of those that have come down to us in such a good state of preservation; this is thanks to various restorations that already began in the Middle Ages, when the amphitheater was used as a fortress to defend against invasions and then as a place to burn heretics. In 1382, for the wedding of Antonio della Scala and Samaritana da Polenta, 25 days of festivities and jousting were organized inside the arena itself.

The most important restorations began in 1500, when the city of Verona began to protect the area and the walls to a greater extent, punishing any infringements.

In the Middle Ages the so-called jousts were very much in vogue: a sport that in the form of a tournament became a sort of armed duel between knights. On the 26th of February 1590 the first documented joust was organized in the Arena of Verona, a custom that continued into the 17th century with knights from various parts of Italy and beyond.

In the 19th century, under French supremacy, the government under Napoleone Bonaparte allocated various funds for the restoration of the monument, bringing important changes also to Piazza Bra. Later, the Arena was used as a concentration camp for Austrian prisoners, but the bull-hunting shows that were very popular at the time continued. They were later replaced by horse and bicycle races, hot-air balloon shows, acrobatics, comedies and… games such as bingo.

The first documentation of a prelude to an opera performance dates back to the 24th of November 1822 when, following the Congress of Verona, a performance of “La Santa Alleanza” (The Holy Alliance) was given with text by Gaetano Rossi and music by Gioachino Rossini. The performances were popular and continued over the years until the great success, in 1913, of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, an opera that decreed the amphitheater as the first open-air opera theater in the world with its 15.000 spectators.

Even nowadays the Arena di Verona is used for concerts and events, first and foremost the great opera season and, ça va sans dire, Aida remains one of the flagship shows of the various seasons.

The 99th Arena di Verona Opera Festival 2022 kicks off on the weekend of the 17th  and 18th of June with two of the most representative titles in the history of the Festival: Carmen by Bizet and Aida by Verdi, both signed by Franco Zeffirelli. Many other performances will be given until the 4th of September and all of them would be unmissable.

About an hour away from the AbanoRitz to immerse yourself in a magical evening, in a dream setting that comes to life again thanks to the Fondazione Arena, international directors and artists and some of the best-loved titles.

We look forward to seeing you!

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