An ‘optimistic’ Verona Arena announces summer opera lineup

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FILE – In this June 21, 2002 file photo, a huge pyramid dominates the stage of the opening performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida in the Verona Arena, northern Italy. Riccardo Muti will open the season on June 19 and 22, conducting a concert version of “Aida” to mark the 150th anniversary of the Verdi title whose pageantry has made it a festival mainstay. (AP Photo/Claudio Martinelli)

MILAN (AP) — Riccardo Muti and Plácido Domingo will headline the 2021 Verona Arena Opera Festival, essentially last year’s season revived as a sign of “great optimism and utmost seriousness,” the festival’s general director said Thursday.

After an abbreviated 2020 season of concerts due to the pandemic, operas will be fully staged with a complete cast and chorus. But the Arena’s elaborate sets, including a full pyramid for “Aida,” will be substituted with technology, including projectors and holograms, to reduce the number of people backstage and maintain distancing requirements.

Seating will be limited to 3,200 at the start of the season, but organizers said they hoped the vaccine campaign will advance in a way to allow more seating as the season progresses. In a normal year, a sold-out show seats 13,550.

“We have more experience, and we know better our enemy,” general director Cecilia Gasdia told a news conference. “We have strict protocols that can evolve. We have virus tests, and above all we have the vaccine.”

Muti will open the season on June 19 and 22, conducting a concert version of “Aida” to mark the 150th anniversary of the Verdi title whose pageantry has made it a festival mainstay.

The summer festival will then pick up with the 2020 calendar of operas that never were staged, starring the cast as announced last year: “Cavalleria rusticana” by Pietro Mascagni together with “Pagliacci” by Ruggero Leoncavallo, “Aida,” “Nabucco” and “La Traviata” by Verdi and Puccini’s “Turandot.”

Domingo will headline one of five gala events, which include also Verdi’s “Requiem,” Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, an opera gala featuring German tenor Jonas Kaufmann and a ballet gala starring Roberto Bolle.

Theaters in Italy have been mostly closed since February 2020 because of the pandemic, and Gasdia expressed her solidarity “with all the artists who have been suffering particularly for a year.” She said the classical music world was looking with “great hope” at the government’s plans to reopen theaters on March 27.

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