Opera in Florence

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of attending a performance of La Boheme at Florence’s ultra modern opera house.  It was a fabulous experience!

 

Soon I’ll post about the performance, but for now I want to focus on the building itself.

 

 

 

Unusual for an Italian city, the new opera house complex includes green space.

 

I don’t know about you, but generally speaking, when I think of opera lyrica together with Florence, I think of the Belle Époque (or some other, older) period, with gorgeous, lush architectural interiors.  This theater is non of that.
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In fact, the thoroughly modern new Teatro revitalized a section of Florence, bordering the northeast corner of the Casine park.
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The rooftop amphitheater has magnificent views of historic Florence.
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The location is strategic, near the Arno River and between the Leopolda Station and the Cascine Park, It was the intention of the builders to integrate the historical center of Florence with the Cascine, or the “green” section of Florence.  Indeed, the mowed lawn outside the entrance of the theater was the first manicured green grass I’ve seen in all of Italy in the past year.
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The complex is marked with red in the photo above.
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Florence is, of course, the city where opera was born in 1597 and where opera has been performed in numerous venues including, for many years, a functional but ungainly theater called the Teatro Comunale. When Matteo Renzi was mayor of Florence from 2009 to 2014, among his projects was this new opera house and concert hall, not far from the Teatro Comunale.

Renzi, who became prime minister of Italy at the age of 39, was an audacious and controversial leader, but there is no denying that he effectively set the national discussion on a new course.

Before Renzi became Prime Minister, some laws were passed that tried to reform arts funding and administration in Italy. These laws require, in exchange for federal money, more administrative control from Rome of some of the fondazioni—the entities that run the 14 important theaters in Italy that present opera.

 

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The New Florence Opera House, is  one of the most innovative in all of Europe. After years of deliberating the need to provide Florence, and its renowned opera festival Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, with a modern venue, at last this new complex took shape.

 

 

 

The complex is comprised of three large and spacious halls: the opera hall, built with special walls that direct soundwaves towards the audience without echoing; the concert hall which holds 1000 seats; and the spectacular rooftop amphitheater, which offers 2000 outdoor seats with an captivating panoramic view of the city.

Finally finished and opened in May 2014, a new square in front of the theater was inaugurated at the same time.  The piazza is the largest in Florence and one of the biggest in Italy. The new large garden square is named after Vittorio Gui, the founder of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.
The theatre hosts not only classical music, but also pop, theatrical productions, film, meetings and conferences, making it a central place in the life of city and its inhabitants.
The exterior features a smooth surface on which images and videos can be projected, or which can simply be flooded with light to stand out against the night sky.
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With its stark, modern structure and cutting-edge technologies, the new opera house is one of the most modern opera houses in the world, uniting modernity and antiquity, vision and tradition, in the city that gave birth to the first opera in the 1600s.

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 The heart of the new theater is the opera hall itself, the simple and bold cavea.  The building materials stem Tuscany’s architectural tradition: marble, wood, terracotta and gold.  Cipollino marble covers the volumes of the new theatrical complex; the baked enamel of the great “urban lantern” of the tower; the gold used for the curved walls of the large and majestic foyer are all materials, textures and colours belonging to the historical tradition of Medician architecture.
The theater boasts outstanding acoustics, which were designed by the German team Müller-BBM.
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Most critics agree that the streamlined auditorium is undeniably handsome.
However, those audience members who are seated in lateral boxes have little or no eye-contact with the rest of the audience, as if Paolo Desideri the architect, had wished to suppress the conviviality of the traditional Italian opera house, in which spectators interact with each other while responding to what is happening onstage.
Nevertheless, the modern and multifunctional building seems to have won over the Florentines, who have an understandable reputation of usually being very wary when it comes to the construction of modern buildings in the cradle of the Renaissance.
The theater is the official home of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino see http://www.maggiofiorentino.com/
The New Opera House was planned from the beginning to take on all those functions of the theater as envisioned by the ancient Greeks; the opera house is thus a avant-garde cultural center for all of Europe, where music, arts, education and entertainment converge.

For this reason the opera house is open and accessible to the public during daytime hours.  The bookshop and café will be always open and families can go for a walk, wander among the fountains, or meet with friends on the grounds.

The project was undertaken by the Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri with funds made available (150 million Euro grant) for the celebration of the 150th anniversary  (in 2011) of the unification of Italy and with contributions from the Regione Toscana and the city of Florence.  A 255 million Euro public investment partially financed the ambitious project of the New Florence Opera House which represents.

The theater also boasts one of the most technologically advanced scene-changing mechanisms in the world that enables rapid scenography changes so as to allow even multiple and simultaneous performances in the same day, increasing the theater’s potential.

 


Credits

Presidenza del Consiglio di Ministri
Executive Officer Dr. Elisabetta Fabbri (Architect)
Project Manager Dr. Giacomo Parenti (Engineer)
Director of Works Dr. Giorgio Caselli (Architect)
Contractors A.T. I : S.A.C Spa e I.G.I.T Spa
Project Coordinator Dr. Angelo Reale (Engineer)
Executor Co-ordinator of the project and its operative phases Dr. Angela Ranieri (Engineer)

Design
Architects Studio A.B.D.R – Roma
Structural Design Italingegneria – Roma
Systems Design Enetec – Roma

Consultants
Acoustics Müller – BBM Monaco
Stagecraft Biobyte

 

In Florence, I believe, one of the problems is that despite the city’s history with opera, it is not widely popular with local people and with the millions of visitors who come here for days of intensive touring of museums full of the masterpieces. And with the old and new theaters slightly out of the heart of tourist traffic, no one walks past them as part of a stay here.

Construction on the new theater (based on designs by Paolo Desderi) began in 2009 and it was inaugurated on December 21, 2011 so that it could be said to have opened in the year of the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy. It was quickly closed after one concert as it was nowhere near complete. It has had a couple of more “openings” and its official one was on May 10, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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