In late October I added another name to my list of Italian cities well worth visiting: Trieste!
Trieste is a small town very much Viennese or rather very Austro-Hungarian, which combines the central European style to its Roman origins and the sea. A deep sea that embraces and gives it breath. A real little gem that deserves to be seen and appreciated.
Trieste is relatively small and can be visited walking: in the footsteps of the great writers who have lived there, climbing the hill to discover the ancient Roman city that dominated the bay or even walking along the seafront. Still, I will tell you about the Old Town another time.
Today I want to tell you about what led me to Trieste, and I hope to lead you there: the Giuseppe Verdi Opera House.
The Giuseppe Verdi Theatre in Trieste
This amazing Italian theater, a few steps from Piazza Unità d’Italia (the biggest square on a waterfront), was built in just over ten years in the late ‘700, according to a first draft by Giannantonio Selva, former designer of La Fenice in Venice, which dealt with the interiors before the takeover of Matthew Pertsch, inspired by his teacher Piermarini, the designer of the Teatro alla Scala. Like La Scala, it was inaugurated in 1801 with Salieri, Annibale in Capua.
The venue is absolutely sumptuous: gilding, red velvet, elegant boxes, a frescoed ceiling worth of the great international capitals, and a quite new treat for the audience, the Italian and English surtitles. What I call a real theater!
In its first century, the theater had its name changed several times: it opened as the New Theatre Royal, was later renamed Theater of Trieste, Teatro Grande, and Teatro Comunale. In 1901, right after the death of the Maestro of Busseto, during the night, the board named the opera house after him.
During these two centuries, Teatro Verdi has witnessed important premieres, hosted the biggest names in opera as Antonino Votto, Maria Callas, Boris Christoff, Franco Corelli, Peter Maag, Marcelo Alvarez, and Juan Diego Florez. It had lost a bit of its past luster in recent years, unfortunately like many other Italian theaters, but the new management has absolutely all the skills to bring the theater up very high.
Another pearl of the theater is the Ridotto (i.e., foyer) on the top floor. A beautiful rectangular venue with a wooden side colonnade, a stunning upper gallery, an elegant oak flooring, a huge chandelier in Murano glass, and the ceiling decorated with masks of Greek tragedy and muses.
The Verdi Theatre’s opera season
On October 30th, I attended Don Giovanni’s opening night, opening the Verdi Theatre’s lyrical season and a brand new season for the theater: new superintendent, new artistic project, and new life to this beautiful Italian theater.
I couldn’t have missed it because the new superintendent Stefano Pace is a close friend I have worked with for many years. I am sure who will give new life to Trieste, because of the direction of Allex Aguilera, another dear friend and colleague I admire, because of the scenes entrusted to Philippine Ordinaire, again a good friend and inspired artists and of course because of Don Giovanni! I’ve never enough of Don Giovanni!
The opera season of the Verdi Theatre in Trieste continued with a new production of Massenet’s Werther and always modern and intimate drama, much more affordable than the one romanticized by Goethe but equally engaging.
- L’Elisir d’Amore by Donizetti on stage from December 18th to 30th
- The oh so beautiful Norma by Bellini with six performances from January 29th to February 6th
- Luisa Miller by Verdi from March 4th to 12th
- La Cenerentola by Rossini from April 8th to 16th
- La Bohème by Puccini from May 13th to 21st
- An engaging and funny Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss jr. will be closing the season, with six performances from June 10th to 18th
If you’re wondering why spending a night at the opera, I give you these 8 excellent reasons! There could be many more, but these are just undeniable 😉
I did not attend the previous openings of the Verdi Theatre, but I can say that this one was very successful! I loved the sober lines of the set design that plunged the story in a De Chico-style space out of time. Still, I emotionally charged the costumes signed by William Orlandi and the exquisite choices of the stage direction, enhancing the strength of the characters and the dominating emotions in complete harmony with Mozart’s score and Da Ponte’s libretto.
I also liked the confident conduction by Gelmetti and the valuable young cast! Particularly perfect the energetic Nicola Ulivieri in Don Giovanni, the expert Leporello by Carlo Lepore; the vocally agile and passionate Raffaella Lupinacci in the role of Donna Elvira ( which I’ll never get to understand!) and the remarkable voice of Raquel Lojendio singing Donna Anna.
A great opening night!
If you’d like to listen to Don Giovanni, I recommend this version with an exceptional cast conducted by von Karajan or this latest one with an amazing male cast conducted by Abbado.
Meanwhile, I leave you with “Finch’ han del vino” sung by Peter Mattei and directed by Haneke, one of my toughest, yet very satisfying professional souvenir …