Torre del LagoPuccini Opera FestivalToscaTeatrp Rossini - Pesaro, ItalyVerona viewArena di Verona at night

To truly appreciate opera in all its richness and subtlety, however, it is necessary to invest time to cultivate both listening and viewing skills. For opera brings together so many other art forms in its presentation of epic stories and timeless tales. In any given operatic production one encounters a musical score as complex as any symphony. One approaches a dramatic performance as nuanced as the foremost of stage plays. One watches sophisticated plots unfold and experiences the intonations of some of the most gifted vocalists of our time. Understanding how these multiple elements are brought together and organized in a single complex production is the endeavor of our sojourn this week. While we attend some of the most celebrated operas of all time, we’ll explore the history, art, and mechanics of operatic production.

There is perhaps no more perfect destination to further develop one’s appreciation of opera than in Italy, the place of its birth and, as some understandably argue, the place that still does opera best. Our sojourn will take us to three of the most elegant locations in Italy where opera is not only produced, but indeed celebrated, each summer. We begin in Torre del Lago Puccini, just a short distance north of Pisa along the Tuscan coast, where the famed Puccini Opera festival affords the opportunity to explore the works of the distinguished composer whose very name has become somewhat synonymous with great opera. Attending a performance of Tosca at the spectacular lakeside arena built specifically for this festival is the highlight of our time here.

From Torre del Lago Puccini we journey directly across the Italian peninsula to Pesaro in the region of Le March for highly coveted seats at the Rossini Opera festival. Here in this charming Adriatic resort town we immerse ourselves in the festival local residents organize for two weeks each August in honor of their most famous son. While we explore the life and works of this most prolific of Italian composers – visiting his birthplace and home – we further cultivate our understanding and appreciation for the art. Our stay here reaches a crescendo as we attend a performance of Demetrio e Polibio in the century-old opera house named in Rossini’s honor.

Leaving Pesaro we head north to the ancient city of Verona where tens of thousands of opera lovers convene each summer to attend spectacular productions in its two thousand year old Roman amphitheatre, called, most appropriately, the Arena di Verona. Our stay in Verona takes us to two of these magical performances set against the backdrop of the mid-summer night’s sky. We begin with Carmen, perhaps one of the most widely popular operas of all time. And, for our final night, an appropriate grand finale, as we experience Verdi’s most celebrated Il Trovatore.

Over the course of the week as we explore these grand masters of Italian opera, we will be further developing our own appreciation of the art form. Learning, if you will, to become better audience members, developing both our operatic taste buds and vocabulary. Under the expert guidance of David Drummond we’ll examine the librettos and explore how the various elements of opera are each crafted into a unified production of music, drama, and design. Our vehicle for the discussion will be the operas themselves – four stunning productions in three remarkable venues. Our seminar evening discussions will focus on critiquing each production and learning to better recognize the choices made by directors, conductors, and performers.

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