Arts & Entertainment

From chariots to chorus: Rome’s Circo Massimo to host opera

By Gonzalo Sánchez

Rome, Jul 15 (efe-epa).- Rome’s ancient chariot racing arena Circo Massimo is preparing to host Rigoletto for the Italian capital’s summer opera season.

The Teatro dell’Opera di Roma will open the work by Giuseppe Verdi on Thursday, conducted by Daniele Gatti and directed by Damiano Michieletto.

Baritone Roberto Frontali will play Rigoletto with Rosa Feola as Gilda and Iván Ayón as Duca di Mantova in the opera, which was based on a play Le roi s’amuse by Victor Hugo.

After more than two months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rome has begun its new normality and the opera house was quick to get to work preparing its summer program.

A number of measures and sanitary regulations have been introduced to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and allow for social distancing.

It will be the first time that performances are staged in the Circo Massimo, which has more space than the Baths of Caracalla where outdoor shows were traditionally held.

The production was created against the clock in just one month with marathon rehearsals at Rome’s Cinecittá film studios.

On the stage, the performers do not come close to each other and if they have to share props they do so while wearing gloves.

Michieletto turned to technology to save himself from having to make major scene changes, with two cameras showing the details of the plot on a huge screen.

Peruvian tenor Ayón, who lives in Genoa, northwest Italy, tells Efe that the context will be different from when he sang in Rigoletto in Rome two years ago.

He says rehearsals have been “arduous” because they had to rethink movements to rethink any physical contact between the performers.

“It is more difficult because one must invent or better manage the body and hands,” he adds.

“Normally you interact with the other character, you hug them – now you have to be very attentive to certain movements.”

He said the stage scenery is “particular” and a break from classical canons but that the result is “very beautiful” after weeks of intense work.

“When you are on stage everything happens to you,” he adds.

The restarting of the opera program is a symbol of how Italy has recovered after being hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, which brought the country to its knees with 243,300 confirmed cases and 34,900 deaths.

Carlo Fuortes, superintendent of Rome’s Opera Theatre, said the box office has been doing brisk trade mainly with residents of the local area as international travel restrictions have severely reduced visitors from further afield.

Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella will attend the premiere of Rigoletto along with other politicians and foreign ambassadors.

The summer program will include 32 performances at the Circo Massimo, including opera, dance and concerts. EFE-EPA

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