The Sferisterio is not an arena but a real theatre, the only open-air theatre with boxes and the widest stage in Europe. Since 1967, for 55 seasons, the Sferisterio has been attracting the most sophisticated opera lovers, offering unique productions with internationally-acclaimed artists, within a huge but also intimate venue that ensures excellent acoustics and great stage view.
The Sferisterio team, led by General Manager Luciano Messi, features Artistic Director Barbara Minghetti and Music Director Francesco Lanzillotta.
The most prominent opera and ballet stars have performed on the Sferisterio stage. Among them, Mario Del Monaco, Luciano Pavarotti, Katia Ricciarelli, José Carreras, Raina Kabaivanska, Montserrat Caballé, Franco Corelli, Placido Domingo, Carla Fracci, Rudolph Nureyev. Some of the Sferisterio productions have made history, such as the so-called Traviata of the mirrors by Josef Svoboda (1992) and the unforgettable Bohème by Ken Russell (1984). A more recent production of Bohème, by Leo Muscato (2012), was awarded the Abbiati Prize (the most prestigious Italian award for opera), and last year (2017) the same prize went to the Sferisterio production of Turandot by Ricci and Forte.
Over the years, Macerata Opera Festival has become a forum for experimentation, with the aim of pushing theatre beyond its own boundaries. We firmly believe that opera is alive and challenges us every day: this is why we have welcomed eminent speakers from different fields, such as Dante Ferretti, Massimiliano Fuksas, Lucia Annibali, Vito Mancuso, Massimo Bray and Mario Cucinella. Many great artists such as Patti Smith, Ludovico Einaudi, Lella Costa, Goran Bregovic, Ezio Bosso, Stefano Bollani, Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood have enriched our programme with special projects and concerts that explored the connections between opera and other live performances including jazz, pop and rock.
The Macerata Opera Festival 2020 #biancocoraggio – which will complete the triad with #verdesperanza (2018) and #rossodesiderio (2019) – will feature Tosca, Don Giovanni and Il Trovatore (from 17 July to 9 August). These titles will evoke and explore in depth three main themes: emancipation, enlightenment, and fate. Moreover these operas will present, through the richness of their librettos and the power of their characters, three different epiphanies of “courage”: loyal, mocking, and valiant.
The Macerata Opera Festival has strong connections not only with international artists but also and especially with Macerata and its citizens. For this reason, the “100 comrades” project was launched with the aim of involving all those who believe in the Sferisterio; the invitation is extended to one hundred Macerata citizens who want to support the Sferisterio with a contribution of one hundred euros. The first one-hundred participants will be awarded the title of “comrades” and they will have the opportunity to support the Macerata Opera Festival by taking advantage of the Art Bonus tax benefits. Art Bonus is a fundraising tool introduced by the Italian government to solicit the economic support of private individuals in favour of cultural heritage, with a tax credit equal to 65%. Therefore, those who contribute one thousand euros to the Arena Sferisterio can be reimbursed 650 euros in the form of a tax credit.
THE SFERISTERIO EXPERIENCE
Being a comrade also means contributing to creating the “Sferisterio experience”, with more than 70 events all over the town, in the surroundings and inside the Sferisterio:
- 36,500 international spectators for paid events
- 500 operators
- 100 volunteers involved in the "World Citizens" project for The Magic Flute by Graham Vick
- 25,000 participants in the Opera Night, the all-night, large-scale event that takes place every year throughout the town.
Every journey is an experience. Unless they are long-standing opera lovers, people who travel today are not content to just enjoy an opera performance. They want it to be paired with unique emotions. Attending a performance at the Sferisterio, (the only open-air theatre with boxes) offers a unique experience in itself. But we have managed to make it even more unique and embrace ever wider audiences.
For example, you can venture behind the scenes thanks to an exciting experience that will give you the chance to learn more about the town and its theatre history. By walking through the little alleys leading backstage, you can meet the technicians, costume makers, and prop finders, and soak up the thrilling atmosphere before every performance. You can also walk to the secret places where Pavarotti and Nureyev waited to go on stage.
Those of you who want to discover even more about the secrets of the Sferisterio can enjoy the unique experience offered by “Opera iPad”. We are the only Festival that gives you the chance to see the making of a show. We will go live on the Macerata Opera Festival Facebook page every day for ten minutes to offer you a glimpse into the backstage world of the Sferisterio: singers, costumes, set design, and much more. The protagonists of the Festival will share stories, news, and curious stories about the Macerata Opera Festival, and you will be invited to virtually explore the unseen areas of the Sferisterio.
APERITIFS ON THE BALCONY
One of the most charming spots of the theatre is surely the Sferisterio balcony. It is also its highest point. From here you can observe the pre-show preparations and, when you turn round, you can savour a breathtaking view of the hills. But you can also enjoy exclusive wine tastings, which are run by certified wine experts, in English and Italian (only 20 participants per evening).
WINE CELLAR EVENTS
If you are a wine lover, you can also take your experience beyond the Sferisterio and the whole town: wine cellar concerts combine great music and wine tasting, mostly at sunset. A toast with the most distinguished local wines, with beautiful music, in the most charming cellars of the area.
You can also actively take part in the Macerata Opera Festival. If you are a singer, you can apply to join the Opera Campus Masterclass. This is a unique opportunity to work, together with renowned opera artists, on methodologies and performance interpretation under the supervision of Francesco Lanzillotta, the Music Director of the Macerata Opera Festival. And what’s more, you will have the chance to work as an understudy for some of the best opera singers who tread the boards of the Sferisterio arena every year. Last but not least, you will be a protagonist in the Festival Off events.
PARTIES ON STAGE
And if you are not a singer but you would like to step onto the Sferisterio stage when the performance is over, you can join us for a party with dancing or a night's sleep under the stars. All of these exclusive experiences enable you to enjoy the theatre in unprecedented, unique ways.
The unique Sferisterio experiences are also made possible thanks to our inclusive and accessibility projects. For the past decade, we have been leading the way in expanding and diversifying the opera audience through accessibility. In 2009, the Macerata Opera Festival launched an ambitious and unique accessibility project with the aim of providing its audience with a wide range of free-access services. These services open up the opera experience, including the theatre itself, with its backstage areas, to the widest possible audience, including those with special needs. Since 2009, all opera performances have been audio described for blind or partially sighted people, with pre-recorded introductory descriptions now available online in Italian and English. In addition, the theatre opens its doors to the audience before all audio-described evening performances with fully guided tactile tours which encompass the costumes, make-up, set, props, instruments and orchestra. Since 2009, subtitles have been projected onto the big wall of the Arena Sferisterio, for every opera performance, so that not only people with a hearing impairment but also the whole audience can easily follow the librettos. Since 2017, there have been two new important additions: the translated English version of the subtitles has been supplied for all opera performances and a sign-language-interpreted tour has guided the hearing impaired through the theatre, the stage, and its backstage areas. Additionally, deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members can optimise intelligibility and sound quality thanks to the new Sennheiser’s MobileConnect technology (Sennheiser Streaming Technologies). Since 2018 audio descriptions have been streamed directly and in real-time on users’ smartphones with the new Sennheiser’s MobileConnect technology. Our goal is to expand the project to the whole Festival using this application. In 2018, the team led by Prof. Di Giovanni, in collaboration with Opera Domani, organized the first inclusive workshop to create audio descriptions with blind and non-blind children, working on Carmen, la Stella del Circo di Siviglia by Opera Domani. During a 3-hour workshop, children were invited to join in the creation of verbal descriptions for characters, settings, costumes and actions, to accompany the performance of Carmen a week later. A discussion on colours, adjectives, important traits and action was developed, including all children and some parents. The workshop included a recording session: all children, blind and non-blind, were involved as voice talents in the recording of the audio description. To date, it seems to be the very first audio description to have been drafted and recorded with young people, especially blind and visually impaired audiences. The experience was repeated in May, 2019, with L’Elisir d’Amore, una Fabbrica di Idee, produced by Opera Domani. A few other creative activities were added to the workshop, whose main goal was, once again, to create and record the descriptions for the show. During the actual shows, both in 2018 and in 2019, all children taking part in the workshop had free seats and headsets, to follow the performance, sing along and dance, while listening to their own audio description.
SFERISTERIO AT SCHOOL
For the Macerata Opera Festival, inclusion also means working with schools, offering projects for girls and boys aged between 6 months and 18 years. Meetings, shows and workshops are planned to show how an opera comes to life, how it is staged and how it can be analysed. Experts in music, opera and educators invite students and teachers to discover melodrama, through an itinerary designed specifically for them. Depending on the participants’ ages, the same opera will be approached from a different point of view and with suitable language: music is the focus of the projects with children at nursery schools; interactivity at kindergarten; dramaturgy and teaching at primary schools. High-school students also have the chance to enjoy a preview show (dedicated to the under 30s) for each opera of the season at the Sferisterio.
NIGHT OF THE OPERA
And “inclusion” is also the common thread that links the events of the Night of the Opera. You can enjoy the opera from a different perspective, share the passion for it, and celebrate the most famous genre of Italian art with others. The Night of the Opera is the highly awaited evening of the Festival, when the whole city of Macerata and the local community gather in the historic centre, Corso Cavour, and Corso Cairoli, giving shape to the theme of the Festival and the operas on stage.