Friday, April 13, 2012
While up in Florence for Taste a few weeks ago, a magazine asked me to be on the look out for travel stories. You know, new up-and-coming places to go to, things to see. My friend, (and incidentally one of Italy’s top PR gurus) Alessandro Grassi pointed me in the direction of the Nuovo Teatro dell'Opera.
Trying to do some research before I went up, I could only find one photograph, a few renderings, and various short local newspaper stories about a concert that was held there last December to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification.
After that, nothing.
So I arrived for my private visit, not quite knowing what to expect.
Looking at these photos, you can understand why I was totally blown away.
The building is drop dead gorgeous. World class beautiful. And it’s in Florence, and no one knows about it because (and here comes the ‘this is Italy’ part of the story) the building, which is 3/4 of the way finished, needs another 80,000,000 Euros to complete and open. So, for the time being, it’s just an amazing construction site with no finish line.
To fill you in, the building was designed by Paolo Desideri of Studio Abdr in Rome to house one of Italy’s oldest Opera festivals, Maggio Musicale. Everyone agreed that a world class festival needed something more than the small, outdated Teatro Goldoni and Teatro della Pergola where it is currently housed. The last government approved the funding for the new project and the main auditorium, offices, hanging garden and roof top arena were finished in record time. One concert was given, at the end of December, just in the knick of time to celebrate said 150th anniversary.
And then it was closed.
My photographs are very hard to understand, because the building itself is like an abstract sculpture. The main auditorium was too dark to photograph inside, but is one of the most acoustically advanced spaces in Europe. The entire building is clad in ceramic tiles that have been printed with design that mimics Carrara marble. A breathtaking open air amphitheater is located on the roof, and takes in what are the the most incredible views in town of Florence and the Duomo.
What is the missing 80,000,000 needed for? Evidently there is a third, smaller, auditorium that is still scheduled to be built. And the other two performance spaces can’t be used in the meantime. Ditto the immense garden that stretches from the facade to the viale.
When I tried to get a firm answer about when/how/what I was told soon/somehow/most definitely.
The current Prime Minister Monti has said that finishing the theater is a priority. But not before Italy’s budget is in order.
Don't hold your breath.
In the meantime the Nuovo Teatro dell’Opera will be open in fits and starts. The first fit will start in May, during Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Although none of the big opera productions will be held here, Zubin Mehta will be directing the Orchestra e Coro del Maggio Musicale on May 10. There are a handful of other performances listed on their site.
Better get your tickets now, because who knows the next time the theater - and this wonderful space - will be open to the public.
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Visit their site to figure out which concerts are in the new theater. There is no list, you have to click on the single events. Look for ones performed in the "Nuovo Teatro dell'Opera di Firenze".