Warm weather, music, and amazing
Summer music festivals are popular for so many reasons: warm weather, large arenas with amazing acoustics, and the conviviality of thousands of people who enjoy the same music. And because the musicians on stage are being cheered by hundreds or even thousands of adoring fans, the charged atmosphere is musically and theatrically spectacular.
Some summer music festivals in Italy date back many years, and some with the added “vantaggio” of historic arenas. The list is long, but here are a few famous Italian music festivals worth noting:
The Arena di Verona Festival celebrates music – especially opera – in the magnificent setting of the Arena di Verona, an ancient Roman amphitheatre that can host up to 15,000 people, although it can actually fit 30,000 people. Traditionally, performances begin at dusk, and spectators sitting on stone seats hold small candles (“moccoletti”), which are lit as darkness falls and the performances begin.
In the arena’s center where gladiators once entertained in armed combat, the first operas in 1913 celebrated the centenary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi with an epic staging of Aida. Since then, Verona has hosted many singers whose careers became legendary, including Beniamino Gigli and Maria Callas. Stage sets have had water features and live animals – even elephants. Legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who died this month, conducted several times at Verona over his prolific lifetime.
Click here to watch Ennio Morricone at the Arena di Verona:
The Ravello Festival has the rugged Amalfi coast as the stage’s stunning backdrop. It dates back to 1953, when it began as a celebration of German composer Richard Wagner. Today, the stage features a summer repertoire with many kinds of music and cultural events, including renowned symphony orchestras and famed conductors, as well as opera and pop singers.
The Umbria Jazz festival transforms the central Italian region into a global music village for 10 days in July. It was a success when it launched in 1973, and has grown and evolved since then. The festival now spans several venues, including an arena, smaller theaters, and a piazza. Memorable performers at Umbria have included Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Carlos Santana, Prince, Elton John, and more.
Rock fans in Italy have several large events. Rock in Roma features major rock, heavy metal and rap acts. It takes place every summer in the Ippodromo delle Capannelle and other locations including Circo Massimo, Auditorium Parco della Musica and Ostia Antica. Another big rock festival is Firenze Rocks, one of the largest musical events in Tuscany. Summer months in Milan bring both I-Days and the Milano Summer Festival.
Pescara Jazz is an international jazz festival held in July, dating back to 1969. Performers at past Pescara festivals have included Dizzie Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Wynton Marsalis, Sarah Vaughan, and more.
The Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Umbria, features a wide range of summer concerts, opera, and other arts. It was founded in 1958 by composer Gian Carlo Menotti, aspiring to meld American and European cultures.
The Ravenna Festival features a wide range of music, especially opera and classical. Every summer, the entire city becomes a stage, including basilicas, historic theaters, cloisters, ancient buildings, industrial heritage sites, even beaches and forests. The festival was founded in 1990 by Maria Cristina Mazzavilani, wife of conductor Riccardo Muti, who still makes regular appearances.
The Pistoia Blues Festival has many world-famous blues bands and solo performers entertaining each summer in the main piazza of the beautiful Tuscan village. It started in 1980 with BB King and Muddy Waters, and has since featured acts including Mumford & Sons, Santana, Counting Crows, Hozier, Passenger, Sting, and Dream Theater.
Turin is known as Italy’s most innovative city for electronic music. sPAZIO 211 is a live music venue with an outdoor stage every summer, featuring touring European and U.S. rock and indie bands, particularly cult, underground and emerging talent.
Want to learn more? Click here for a special video presentation on this subject.
The Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere is a not-for-profit organization that celebrates everything Italian by sharing stories such as this, and offering exceptional public programs: Language and cooking classes; art and photo exhibits; film festivals; opera luncheons and casino nights; Italian car shows and fashion shows; live concerts and theatrical performances; guest chef experiences and wine tastings; bocce and bingo (tombola); and much more. Casa Belvedere (house with a beautiful view) has established itself as a vibrant and buzzing cultural center in New York City. For more information, visit casa-belvedere.org.