History and Architecture
The original name of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma (Rome’s Opera House) was Teatro Costanzi, from the family name of its constructor, Domenico Costanzi, who had migrated from Umbria to the new capital of Italy in 1870 in search of new business opportunities.
The project started in 1874. Costanzi had bought a great deal of land in the area that leads to Via del Corso from the new Termini Train Station. At first, the entrepreneur built a luxurious hotel (the Hotel Quirinale). Then he moved to build the new opera house. The hotel and the opera house communicated via a subterranean passage, which was very much liked by artists as it provided them with full privacy.
Costanzi awarded the project of the opera house to Achille Sfondrini, a young architect from Milan who had recently designed the Teatro Carcano in his hometown. The construction was very fast; the new opera house was ready in 18 months. Different from many other opera houses of that era, which were designed in a neoclassical style, the Teatro Costanzi was built in Renaissance-Revival fashion. The Renaissance-Revival (or neo-renaissance) style took inspiration from the architectural style of Italian buildings from the 15th century, including some of the features of the Baroque era.oy shows in full discretion, although the audibility was not as good as in open circles. Sfondrini did not only pay attention to the visual elements: he managed to design a theater that has wonderful acoustics with the help of a horseshoe-shaped interior. Originally, the theater seated more than 2,200 people, divided into three box tiers, two galleries, and the stalls. Today, after major changes and for new security regulations, the opera house can host 1,600 people.
The new opera house of Rome was inaugurated on November 27, 1880, when Gioachino Rossini’s tragic melodrama Semiramide was performed in front of Italian royals Umberto and Margherita of Savoy. The theater was located in an apparently profitable spot, and its acoustics was considered particularly good; however, because of the maintenance expenses of the structure and production costs, Costanzi’s enterprise did not prove to be lucrative. Costanzi managed the opera house personally. In addition to being a good manager, he had great taste for music; he ensured his theater saw the premiere of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, the now renowned opera based on the novel by great verista (realist) writer Giovanni Verga.
Domenico Costanzi died in 1898. His son Enrico took over. Although he did not manage the opera house for a long time, Enrico’s value would be remembered thanks to the premiere of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca on January 14, 1900, which would immediately gain the attention of the public. The artistic successes of the Teatro Costanzi continued even when the opera house was bought by the Mocchi family in 1907.
The name of the Roman theater changed in 1926, when it was bought by the municipality. The new name was Teatro Reale dell’Opera (at that time, Italy was a monarchy; reale stands for “royal”). Together with the name, other features of the opera house changed; the public entrance was moved to where Piazza Beniamino Gigli is today. Not only was the exterior part renovated, but the disposition of the boxes was changed as well during the 18 months of restoration. The theater reopened with a very difficult but riveting opera, Arrigo Boito’s Nerone (Nero), left unfinished in 1918, when the great composer died.
The “royal” adjective was subtracted from the name of the opera house after the end of World War II and the proclamation of the Italian Republic. In 1958, the theater was renovated again. The contract was awarded to the same architect who had directed the renovation 30 years before, Marcello Piacentini. Piacentini modified the façade, and the theater started to look as it does today.
Since its last renovation, the Teatro dell’Opera has experienced both artistic successes and economic difficulties. Famous opera performances include two operas conducted in 1964 and 1965 by maestro Carlo Maria Giulini and directed by Luchino Visconti: Le Nozze di Figaro by Mozart and Don Carlos by Giuseppe Verdi. The economic issues of cultural enterprises were never disregarded by the artists themselves. On March 12, 2011, great conductor Riccardo Muti broke the opera protocol and, at the end of Nabucco’s Va’ Pensiero aria, delivered a speech in which he asked, with success, the audience to sing along during the encore to protest against the government’s cuts to culture. Five months later, maestro Muti was nominated honorary director of the opera house for life.
How to reach the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome
The opera house is located in Piazza Beniamino Gigli, 7
By subway: the stop’s name is Repubblica - Teatro dell’Opera, on Line A
By bus: from the Termini station, use lines 16, 38, 75, 86, 90, 217, 310, 360, 649, or 714