Every year, Verona holds an opera festival in the Roman arena. In 2013, when I went, the festival was celebrating its centenary. The operas all start around 21.00 or 21.15, so they take place after dark, creating a wonderful, romantic atmosphere.
I went to Aida, conducted by Omer Meir Welber, with Hui He as Aida and Fabio Sartori as Radames. This was a good choice, as this opera, with its grand choruses, is particularly suited to the sort of large scale productions which can be done in the Verona Arena. The director certainly took full advantage of the location. The cast must have involved about 200, mainly comprising soldiers and priests of the temple. The soldiers all appeared with torches in Act 1 scene 1- you can’t do that in an indoor theatre! Scene 2 began with a brilliantly choreographed entrance by the priests of the temple all from different entrances to the Arena and all came in carrying lamps. At the start, I wondered why the seats behind the stage weren’t being used. Once the performance started, I realised. Torches were mounted on the top steps of the Arena, and in Act 3, which takes place at night, by the banks of the Nile, an artificial moon was raised- then the real moon came out, so there were two!
Overall, this is a superb experience for anyone who enjoys opera, and it needn’t cost a fortune.
Verona Opera Practicalities