Rome does not enjoy the same relevance as other Italian cities as an entertainment centre. Its Opera House does not have the same reputation as Milan's La Scala and there is not a music festival similar to Florence's Maggio Musicale. For years the only internationally known event has been the Summer Opera Season at Terme di Caracalla.
Swan Lake at Terme di Caracalla
The season at Caracalla started in 1937 and immediately was very successful (you may wish to spend a 1939 evening at Caracalla).
Over time however the repetitiveness of the operas included in each season (Aida, Turandot, Nabucco and a very famous ballet)
turned the event into one which mainly attracts an audience of tourists.
In 1977 Renato Nicolini, a City of Rome council member, had the idea to launch a sort of Caracalla (as the Romans call the Summer Opera Season) for moviegoers: four gigantic screens were placed at Basilica di Massenzio and the showings went on all night: the initiative met with great success and in the following years it became known as Estate (summer) Romana and it progressively enlarged its scope. Most of the events take place in July because at Ferragosto the Romans quit the city.
Auditorium della Musica: open air theatre and its temporary stage
Auditorium della Musica, the complex of concert halls designed by Renzo Piano, includes an open air amphitheatre for 3,000 people where every evening there is a different show: singers and bands as well as lecturers attract large audiences.
Notte della Taranta: old dances at a modern pace
Taranto, a seaport in southern Italy, has given its name to tarantula, a large black wolf spider which is very common in the nearby countryside.
The spider's bite is not venomous enough to cause death or severe damage;
however, according to a popular tradition, the victims
have to dance in a frenzied manner at a very rapid pace to counteract the venom. This kind of dance in its softer Neapolitan version is known as tarantella: it is characterized by rapid whirls and by a 6/8 or 4/4 time. In Rome a similar dance is called saltarello (salto=jump).
Notte della Taranta is an attempt to bring back the traditional dances of Taranto, avoiding the folkloristic aspects of such revivals.
Notte della Taranta: calling the audience to support the performance
Notte della Taranta is not a traditional concert where people are afraid of coughing; the show is a choral effort with players taking turns at singing and dancing and the audience is asked to do the same.
Notte della Taranta: everybody gets involved
Villa Adriana: "Poikile" at sunset
Goethe enjoyed the atmosphere of the ceremony:
"The church stands on a square which is so large that, normally, it looks empty, but today it is full of life. Horses and mules, their manes and tails gorgeously braided with ribbons, are led up to a small chapel, detached from the church proper, and a priest, armed with an enormous brush, sprinkles them with holy water from tubs and buckets in front of him. He does this generously, vigorously and even facetiously so as to excite them... Donkeys and horned cattle also get their modest share of blessing."
One of the main reasons for the success of Estate Romana lies in the opportunity the audience is given to see some monuments in the late evening when usually the archaeological sites are closed. Those who access Villa Adriana to attend a performance by Orchestra Popolare Italiana can admire the main terrace of Hadrian's residence when the sun rays still enlighten the buildings, while a hedge is high enough to prevent them from reaching its large basin; the end result is a reflection which would be the joy of all watercolourists.
Villa Adriana: (left) a building near (right) the Large Baths
The stage is placed behind the Large Baths and the audience is seated on a (temporary)
scaffolding which ensures an excellent view of the show.
Villa Adriana was built on a series of artificial terraces facing west: in that direction there are no trees, buildings or hills so the sunset has the same features it has at sea, with shadows becoming extremely long.
(left) Tamburellare di Tivoli (Tivoli's tambourinists) and (right) Orchestra Popolare Italiana
The show is based on old folksongs of the Roman countryside, which means shepherds' songs,
because the popes did not promote farming.
The performance starts with a player blowing into a shell identical to that of Bernini's
Triton in Piazza Barberini; so one wonders whether the artist was inspired by having watched a shepherd giving the signal to start the seasonal migration to and from the Apennines.
Orchestra Popolare Italiana has a repertory of shows based on the folksongs of the various Italian regions.
Villa Adriana: (left) "Canopus" at sunset and (right) at night
Canopus is a very evocative part of Villa Adriana: at twilight and night it is even more fascinating because the view of the Serapeum (the circular building at the end of the basin) is not disturbed by the light of the sun behind it.
Accademia Nazionale di Danza (at Clivo dei Publici): the stage and the orchestra
Castello dei Cesari was the name of a restaurant very popular among late XIXth century travellers:
it offered commanding views over the ruins of the imperial palaces; in the 1930s the whole area was redesigned and the building where the restaurant
was housed became part of a larger complex now belonging to Accademia Nazionale di Danza (external link).
Access to the site is restricted to the students and to those working in the institution, so attending a performance of the school ballet is a rare opportunity to see its gardens.
Accademia Nazionale di Danza: end of a scene from "The Nutcracker"
For the occasion a number of professional dancers assist the students in performing scenes from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.
Accademia Nazionale di Danza: junior performers of a ballet based on "Capriccio Italiano"
Tchaikovsky visited Italy several times in the late 1870s and in 1880 he composed Capriccio Italiano a short fantasy for orchestra based on a tarantella theme.
Accademia Nazionale di Danza: final applause
Na voce, na chitarra e 'o ppoco 'e luna... (a voice, a guitar and a bit of moon) is a Neapolitan song by Rossi-Calise telling these three things are all you need for a serenade. They are also all you need for a lovely evening in the very heart of Rome.
Giardino degli Aranci: Paolo Gatti and Giorgia Fini
The performance does not require a lot of equipment and the arrangements for the audience are quite simple, nevertheless Paolo Gatti's compilation of old and new Roman songs is among the finest shows of Estate Romana.
Giardino degli Aranci: S. Pietro seen from the terrace
S. Pietro was not included in the list from which the New Seven Wonders of the World were chosen,
but the audience at Giardino degli Aranci had no doubts that if included S. Pietro would have been named.
You may wish to see a Winter Grand View of Rome from Giardino degli Aranci.
Other events of Estate Romana take place at Basilica di Massenzio; Castel Sant'Angelo; Foro Romano; Ostia Antica; Palazzo Sora; S. Alessio; S. Ignazio; S. Ivo alla Sapienza; S. Maria sopra Minerva; Teatro alla Quercia del Tasso; Teatro di Marcello; Villa Celimontana; Villa Sciarra; Villa dei Quintili; Villa Doria Pamphilj.
Other Days of Peace pages:
A Sunny Day in Villa Borghese
At the Flea Market
At the Beach
Voicing Your Views ..... and feeling better
Christmas in Rome
Celebrating the Foundation of Rome
A visit to Roseto di Roma
The procession of La Madonna de Noantri
Running the Marathon
Watching the Parade
Finding Solace at the Protestant Cemetery
Attending Winter Ceremonies
Rome's Sleepless Night
Jogging at Valle delle Camene
Sailing on the River to see the Bridges of Roma
An October Outing to Marino
A Special Spring Weekend
Embassy-hunting in Parioli
Attending a Funeral ...and enjoying it!
Celebrating Eritrean Michaelmas in Rome
Visiting Rome at Dawn
Visiting Rome in the Moonlight
Visiting Rome on a Hop-on-Hop-off Bus
Visiting Multi-ethnic Rome
Playing in the Snow at the Janiculum
Watching the Pride Parade
Reading Memoirs of Hadrian at Villa Adriana
Visiting the Movie Sets at Cinecittą
Looking up at the Ceilings of the Vatican Palaces
Spending the Last Roman Day at St. John Lateran's Cloister
Reading Seneca at the Baths
Reading Ovid at St. Peter's
Walking the Dog at Valle della Caffarella