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The interior of one of the world’s greatest opera houses - Teatro Regio.

A Musical Journey at the Verdi Festival

By Francesca Cuoghi

It is said that every place and every city has a story to tell. I was in Parma to fully immerse myself in the experience of the Verdi Festival, an event that since 2001, has celebrated the great composer.

In the fall, near the date of October 10th (the birthday of the great composer), the cities of Parma and Busseto become animated during weeks of celebration with performances, exhibitions and conferences devoted to the famous composer. In actuality, since 1913, the centenary of his birth, Verdi’s lands have been celebrating the master. On that occasion there was a double representation – in Parma, his adopted home, under the direction of Cleofonte Campanini and in Busseto, the place of his birth, with the already legendary Arturo Toscanini.

The Verdi Festival therefore has a very profound meaning, which goes beyond a rich and wide program of events. It represents a connection between the past and the present, where the musical culture of the great composer aligns with the contemporary world. The live performances of orchestras and operatic singers are capable of capturing us with their melodies. In a fashion, time stops while the music plays and the audience is transported back to the time of the composer, where musical passages alternate whispering the composer’s idea and thunderously announcing his message. Those in the audience have another way of stepping back in time and that is through the architecture of the theaters themselves.

What might be viewed by the uninitiated as attendance in this noble city’s festival soon turns into a musical journey. It is an unusual experience, which allows classical and operatic music to break out of traditional canons. Part of the festival is called Verdi Off, which is a rich program of side events and pop-up performances in the streets of Parma. It is both unusual and welcome. It provides counterpoint, emphasizing the festival’s range, where experiences immerse one in a tapestry that textures from exuberant and sometimes unexpected vocal treats to the magnificence of the temple of opera and symphonic music that is the Teatro Regio.

One of the most beautiful theaters in the world, Teatro Regio embodies elegance, where its architectural harmony of proportions matches the perfect acoustics of the venue. Its prestigious history has included performances by many of operas greatest talents. The charm of Parma, together with the city’s deep bond with Giuseppe Verdi, Arturo Toscanini and Niccolò Paganini, represents a heritage that is immeasurable and a value that is absolute.

Commissioned by the Duchess Maria Luigia, it was originally named the Nuovo Teatro Ducale (New Ducal Theatre), when inaugurated on May 16, 1829. The neoclassical forms of the building – the ten columns of the façade, the wide window flanked by bas-reliefs of two winged muses makes it among the most recognized opera houses. It is this historical and cultural heritage that makes Parma a place with no equal. The festival is a tribute to its famous citizen; a man who helped to make Parma an international destination to be discovered. Even now, imaginations run fast, as the desire to be part of the event underlines the bond between Parma and the great master.

During the month of the festival, some of the most beautiful and famous works belonging to Verdi are presented, creating indescribable feeling that only live music can transmit. Now, the newest chapter of the city has emerged, as the curtain has now risen on 2020, when Parma takes center stage as the Italian Capital of Culture. This year promises to prove that in this remarkable city, culture represents not only the value of individual achievement, it is of community growth as well.