Great opera isn’t only performed in the grand stages of theaters around the world. Another avenue for opera fans to get their opera on is at festivals held around the globe, primarily during the summer months, summer for the northern hemisphere that is. We would like to take you on a trip with us to learn a bit about some opera festivals held throughout the year. If you are looking for even more festivals, here are some more.
1. Schwetzingen Festival
Typically held in early summer, this opera festival also highlights other areas of classical music during the festivities. Opening in May and shutting down in early June in Schwetzingen, Germany. It was founded in 1952 by Süddeutscher Rundfunk, a local broadcaster, it is held every year at Schwetzingen Castle, a palace and park that has been around for a quarter of a millennia.
Most of the operas are performed at the Schlosstheater Schwetzingen, a historic theater that first opened in 1753. It also goes by the name Hoftheater, Hofoper, and Comoedienhaus. Some also call it Rococo Theater and it is known for showcasing contemporary operas as well as classical. This theater has commissioned nearly forty operas with premieres by composers like Hans Werner Henze, Werner Egk, Salvatore Sciarrino and Wolfgang Rihm.
Currently, Südwestrundfunk, a local public broadcasting corporation, is the organizer of this lovely event as well as other international concerts and musical theater events in the area each year. This festival is known not only for always including one new opera to be premiered, they also revive rare works that are centuries old and play the music on instruments from that period to give it an authentic sound and atmosphere.
In 2009 it premiered Wolfgang Rihm’s Proserpina and highlighted Ezio by George Frideric Handel.
2. Arena di Verona Festival
Located in the legendary Verona, Italy, which is the setting for the legendary tale of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, this opera festival has been going on since 1913 with the first opera performed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth. They did this by staging Aida in what was the largest theater of its kind. The theatre itself is of ancient Roman descent having been built in the first century.
Quite a few vocalists have earned their fame while performing at this opera festival including Beniamino Gigli in 1929 when he brought the house down appearing in Flowtow’s Martha. Maria Callas performed at this festival annually between 1947 and 1954. She wowed everyone with her performance in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda.
The Teatro Filarmonico, is a theater that has served as the main opera theater since it was built in 1716. It was seriously damaged during World War II and since 1976, the organizers of this festival have been working toward restoring the legendary theater.
They feel that when it is completed, the organizers will have more room to collect a permanent residence of artists to perform, play music, and dance.
3. Bregenz Festival
Pictured in the cover photo, this unique festival is world famous simply for the floating stages they build every year. It is held in an amphitheater with seven thousand seats and is void of a roof. Lake Constance provides the backdrop and water under the stage of these elaborate sets that decorate the shores of Bregenz, Austria. Founded after World War II, the floating stages typically host operas and other musical works that are popular around the world and, at time, the water is used as part of the show.
Recent operas performed here include Aida, Tosca, Il trovatore, West Side Story, La bohéme, and Ein Maskenball (Un ballo in maschera). Besides the main stage over the lake, Festspielhaus holds productions of rare operas, the Werkstattbühne hosts contemporary operas and musical theater works, Theatre am Kornmarkt puts on dramatic productions and operettas, and Theater Kosmos focuses on cross cultured dramatic works.
In 1946 the first Bregenz Festival was held and the crowds came all the way from Germany, Switzerland, and France. That year they build two floating stages on top of barges but graduated to one stage which is used and reconstructed every year. This festival was highlighted in Quantum of Solace, a James Bond film, when the festival put on a production of Tosca by Puccini. In June of 2008, a German broadcasting company, ZDF, used the floating stage to broadcast live during the European Football Championships.
4. Festival de Beaune
Also known as the Festival international d’opéra baroque is held in Beaune, France is runs for an entire month. While their focus is on the entirety of baroque opera and its influence on the genre, this festival is best known for reviving original Mozart compositions on the instruments that would have been used in his day. Of late, the town has also become the location of another festival that focuses on film called Festival international du film policier de Beaune, which focuses on detective films.
The opera festival was founded in 1982 and since then more than eighty operas have graced their stages, with nearly half of them momentous revivals. Some of them include Scipione by George Frideric Handel, Zoroastre by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Riccardo Primo by Christophe Rousset, and Il Flaminio by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi.
It is also known for hosting more than 100 oratorio and sacred music concerts, many European premieres, and French premieres. They also hold classes and voice workshops in the Académie de Chant baroque.
5. The Wexford Festival Opera
Located in Wexford, Ireland, this festival is held later in the year from October to November. Tom Walsh founded it in 1951 because he and other opera fans wanted to highlight rarely performed works. The attention grew quickly and they were soon producing operas on three stages.
Since then this festival has been through seven artistic directors yet it has still preserved their mission throughout the decades. During their tenure, Irish singers dominated but only because it is in Ireland. This festival prides itself on featuring singers from the international stage as well. Many of them got their start right there in Wexford.
Czech and Russian operas became more prominent in the 1960s and were included in the festivals repertoire and the 1970s found that the then director, Thomson Smillie, was focusing heavily on operas by Jules Massenet. At the end of the 1970s the festival was fixating its gaze on Italian operas.
In later years works from composers like Benjamin Britten and Carlisle Floyd were highlighted.
6. Fort Worth Opera
The first of our opera festivals not to be set in Europe, this festival began in 1946 as a traditional venue with typical schedules. IT was in February of 2006 when they made the transition, which has never been done before, to an annual spring festival. It is opened from May and for a month attendees can hear opera and concerts for four long Texas weeks.
The first performance by the Fort Worth Opera was La Traviata by Verdi, which opened on November 25, 1946. The location was the Fort Worth Stockyards, which is now known at Cowtown Coliseum. Yet, its official opening as a festival was in May of 2007 and hosted the world premiere of Frau Margot by Thomas Pasatieri.
This festival was modeled after the one held by the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico with the model that operas are performed on an alternating schedule, which give attendees the opportunity to experience several productions within the span of a few days.