The Baths of Caracalla form the majestic backdrop for the beloved Roma Opera Aperta Festival. For years, the ancient ruins of Terme di Caracalla have served as stage for innumerable breath-taking performances of opera, ballet and concert masterpieces. The festival has been a highlight of the Roman classical season for good reason. Year after year, this venue is home to opera classics such as the grand historical dramas Aida and Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi, verismo masterpieces like Tosca by Giacomo Puccini, and belly-laugh comedies like The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini.
To the roster of all-time-favourite operas, the Roma Opera Aperta Festival at the Baths of Caracalla regularly adds standout ballet performances as well as classical and crossover concerts. The event thus grows into a celebration of music beyond genre and era. In its epic home and with a setlist to match, it habitually delivers magical moments to thousands of guests of the Eternal City. Read on to learn more about all the elements of the Festival that make it such a unique offering on the cultural calendar, from the history of the venue to the artists and performances that ensure every edition is remarkable and memorable.
The Baths of Caracalla – A Monument for the Ages
Rome Opera Aperta Festival finds its natural home at the Baths of Caracalla, an ancient Roman structure that first opened its doors to the public in 216 A.D., during the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antonius, whose popular name was ‘Caracalla’. However, it is now widely believed that construction on the monumental project began during the tenure of his father, Septimius Severus. The credit for imagining and designing a gathering point for thousands of people also goes to him, and yet his son’s name remains imprinted both on the venue and in public memory. With their impressive size and majestic beauty, the Baths are among Rome’s most venerated sites.
The Baths of Caracalla were first used as backdrop for classical performances in 1937 when Teatro dell’Opera di Roma announced its first-ever open-air summer season. On 1 August 1937, Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti began a tradition that would become the highlight of the classical calendar. The following year, the Baths of Caracalla hosted no less than 40 unforgettable opera performances, and none was more memorable than the massive production of Verdi’s Aida. 20,000 spectators applauded nearly 500 lead and chorus singers, dancers and extras who all could fit on the vast stage.
Throughout the years, the Baths continued hosting performances of beloved opera and ballet classics as well as works by contemporary composers and choreographers, and concerts of classical and modern nature. Since 2001, a newly fashioned, movable stage ensures that the Roman ruins remain preserved while audiences can still enjoy first-class entertainment in the unique historical location.
Roma Opera Aperta – the Festival for Music Lovers
The programme of the Rome Opera Aperta Festival is as vast as the commanding stage of the Baths of Caracalla. Next to the classic operas by Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Rossini and many other masters of the genre, the festival has featured performances by contemporary and crossover artists, such as the ballet extravaganza Roberto Bolle and Friends or the dazzling violin acrobatics of David Garrett. Special concerts with famous classical and modern stars are also regularly on the bill, including the larger-than-life tenor Plácido Domingo, the accomplished contemporary composer Ennio Morricone whose scores have accompanied numerous movie classics, as well as modern pop and rock artists such as Paolo Conte, Björk and Mark Knopfler. Outstanding ballet performances, as varied as Romeo and Juliet, Serata Nureyev and Strictly Gershwin, round off the festival’s programme.
The Roma Opera Aperta Festival at the Baths of Caracalla is a labour of love and a quintessentially Roman affair. It is grandiose, colourful and refined, and it brings different periods, genres and artists together in one irresistible mix that is the highlight of the summer season by default. As far as outdoor music festivals go, this one is definitely for the books.