Arts & Entertainment

Devoid of audiences, Italy’s historic operas turn to TV, social media

Rome, Dec 12 (efe-epa).- Italy’s historic operas, which have been closed to the public because of the pandemic, have had to reinvent themselves, joining forces with television and the internet to keep the music on their stages and reach their home-bound audiences.

December in Italy is the month of the opening of its lyrical theaters which open their seasons with new productions of the classics by Verdi, Puccini, Rossini or Donizetti, to name just a few.

However, the restrictions imposed by the second coronavirus wave have forced them to close their doors to the public since November for the first time since the war.

To navigate this new normality, these coliseums of the arts have turned to television and social media with new formats to reach their audience that is no longer filling their booths and boxes, and won’t be doing so until the virus is no longer a public health threat.

The Opera in the capital opened its season on December 5 with a new production of “Il barbiere di Siviglia” (1816) behind closed doors which was broadcast by the Italian public television, RAI.

Theirs was a completely original proposal: Rosina and the Count of Almaviva became entangled in their romance, behind the back of the sullen Don Bartolo, in a completely empty theater, leaving the stage and taking the plot to the stalls, corridors, stairs, the royal box and even out to the street.

The production, overseen by filmmaker Mario Martone and directed by Daniele Gatti, hit the screen with almost 700,000 viewers, a success for the institution. “It is the audience we have had in theaters for three years,” its superintendent, Carlo Fuortes, tells Efe.

This is “a way to grow the audience and attract many people who do not go to the opera”, such as young people, he says.

The pandemic has left a deep scar on the Rome Opera’s accounts, with box office losses of 12 million euros this year (in 2019 the profit was about 15 million). To get ahead they are considering taking their recorded works abroad.

“We are working with RAI to take them to television stations around the world. It’s a unique product and it would be very nice. I know that the RAI is working all over Europe to bring this beautiful opera (Il barbiere) to TV audiences,” Fuortes says.

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