The San Carlo Opera House
The destiny of Naples, European capital of music and art, has always revolved around a history mixing and mingling with that of the oldest theatre in Italy, now recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The San Carlo is the symbol of the city where Italian opera music was born, built 41 years before Milan’s La Scala and 55 before Venice’s La Fenice. It was in 1737 when the first Bourbon of Naples, King Carlos III, put his backing behind «a work that unites magnificence and wonder. A theatre! The largest in Europe... destined to soon become the kingdom of opera music in the world». The inauguration was held on the evening of November 4, the name day of the king. To follow were works of the shining era of the Neapolitan eighteenth century, with such composers as Leonardo Leo, Niccolò Porpora, Johann Adolf Hasse “the Saxon” and others. In the nineteenth century San Carlo undergoes a number of changes under the direction of the Royal House’s architect and set designer Antonio Niccolini, and the “temple” becomes the city’s symbol-monument. It was with Domenico Barbaja an impressive impresario that the time of the grand seasons under the direction of Rossini and Donizetti began. On 4 October 1815, the 23-year-old composer Gioachino Rossini had his first opera at San Carlo performed, Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra. Following were other important works by the young man, all the way through to the much-celebrated La gazza ladra e Zelmira, his farewell. Another rising star appeared in the world of melodrama: Gaetano Donizetti, who for San Carlo composed 16 operas including Maria Stuarda, Roberto Devereux and the timeless Lucia di Lammermoor. All of the greats appeared on the theatre’s stage at one point or another, even Vincenzo Bellini fell in love with it, and saw his first work Bianca e Gernando, written especially for San Carlo. Occupying a special place within the nineteenth-century golden age was Saverio Mercadante. For a period the musician from Altamura shared the limelight with Giuseppe Verdi who was soon to become the absolute star with Ernani. The playbill of 1847-1848 focused on Attila and Nabucco, and after the interlude of revolutionary uprisings, the new course opened with another of Verdi’s works, I lombardi alla prima crociata. Verdi went on composing, and his Luisa Miller debuted on 8 December 1849. Verdi’s star shone brighter than any other. After its debut in Rome, Un ballo in maschera met with public claim in the 1861-1862 season, and his success continued unabated - all the way until his much-celebrated Aida in 1872. The short twentieth century took its first breath at the San Carlo with the Neapolitan debut of Tosca (1900-1901). The most touched by the hand of luck at San Carlo between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were the operas by Puccini and the music of the “young school” of Mascagni and the Neapolitans - either by birth or by schooling - Leoncavallo, Giordano, Cilea and Alfano. Covent Garden, 1946, and a tournée meeting with success in London: San Carlo is the first Italian theatre with the courage to start up again after the war. Even today, San Carlo continues in the wake of that tradition. The Lirico has indeed touched with his tour in the last three years, three different continents confirming itself as fine ambassador of Italian culture and the Neapolitan tradition in the world. After the success in Chile, Russia and China, and most recent in Oman and Saint Petersburg, San Carlo had others special tour abroad in San Francisco, Budapest, Astana (Kazakistan).