The Caracalla Festival in Rome has kicked off

TORONTO – If you’re in Rome this summer, or planning unique outings for your Italian vacation, consider the Annual Caracalla Opera Festival, held in the Ancient Thermal Baths of Caracalla. The 2024 Festival has just kicked off and has 60 evenings scheduled until August 10th – to be held mostly in the Teatro Grande, a 4500 seat Arena built inside the Ancient Ruins. Some performances will also be staged at the Teatro del Portico situated near the Temple of Jupiter. 

The Festival’s long history began in 1937 after Piero Colonna, Governor of Rome, announced the annual event as an open-air Opera Festival within the archeological site of Caracalla’s Baths. The festival has since grown into a source of pride for the Country and Capital, becoming a reference point for Opera and Ballet circles, and for music-lovers worldwide. To offer a little history for those not familiar with Caracalla, he was the Roman Emperor from 211-217 CE named after a Gallic cloak he made fashionable (the Caracallus). His foremost accomplishments were the construction of the colossal baths and his edict of 212, through which he gave Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the Empire – a modern concept initiated nearly 2000 years ago.

Today therefore, spectators come from all over the world to enjoy the Opera Festival in Rome – although the performances aren’t entirely Opera or Ballet. This year’s Festival will include pop music stars and a series of concerts like those offered by singers such as Francesco De Gregori and Checco Zalone on 5 and 9 June, Ornella Vanoni on 6 June, Samuele Bersani on 7 June, Il Volo on 8 June. On June 10th will be John Legend’s turn, Pooh on June 11th and 12th, Biagio Antonacci on June 13th and 14th, Antonello Venditti on June 18th, 19th, and 21st, and Umberto Tozzi on June 20th. For Disney enthusiasts, the classic Fantasia will be celebrated on July 23rd. It will be a symphonic concert performed by the Orchestra dell’Opera di Roma and directed by Timothy Brock. Accompanying the live performance, on the big screen, will be some of the highlights of Fantasia (1940) and its sequel Fantasia 2000.

Perhaps the venue is made more interesting to historians given that Caracalla was a military man and wasn’t particularly known to love the arts. It’s highly likely however that we would’ve relished in having his legacy stroked through the renewed use of his baths. And what could be more operatic than staging Operas on a site built by an Emperor who killed his own brother?

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Massimo Volpe is a filmmaker and freelance writer from Toronto: he writes reviews of Italian films/content on Netflix