Saturday, April 21, 2012

Il Nuovo Teatro dell'Opera di Firenze

One afternoon, last December, Simone and I were leaving Cascine after spending a couple hours walking around the park.  Normally, we would enter and exit the park by Via della Cascine, but on this particular day, we exited the park toward Viale Fratelli Rosselli.  As we turned off of Viale degli Olmi to Viale dei Visarno, we laid our eyes on a very large modern structure.

"THAT is an UGLY building!" exclaimed Simone.  I agreed.  Now, I know some folks love modern architecture, and I do believe it does have it's place in this world, but for the most part, Simone and I do not particularly enjoy it.  Especially in an old city such as Florence.  

"What IS it?" I wondered aloud.  

Later that day, Simone walked into the living room and said, "a new opera house!"  He had done an internet search and discovered that the metallic structure was in fact the Nuovo Teatro dell'Opera di Firenze.

"We should go!" Simone added, mentioning a scheduled tour that was open to the public the next morning and that evening there would be a symphonic concert.

The next day, we drove out to the theater and joined several hundred people (I didn't count, but there was a LOT of people there) to take a tour of the theater.  We walked into the lobby and stood in a "line" (I use quotes, because it was more like a mass of people - not a line).

The lobby of the new opera house in Florence
The lobby was quite light and airy feeling.  The center part was spherical that led into the main theater and there were a lot of angles and curves in the light colored walls and ceiling.  The main doors were in a wall of windows, which helped light the area.

Moving from the lobby area into the main house you seem to go from a "colder" feeling space (white, light, sparsely decorated) into a much "warmer" area.  The main theater is filled with a variety of textures and warm colors.

Wood and bronze colors line the walls.  They used a special sort of material and draped the walls with it.  From what they said, the material doesn't absorb or deflect the sound, but rather lets it pass through.

The seats are comfortable and covered in a light gray fabric.  The backs and floor of the main house is comprised of a light color wood that helps to offset the darker walls and ceiling.

The ceiling is a dark gray with light "strips" pointing toward the stage.  There are two upper levels of seating with similar decor.

We took our seats and the lead architect engineer, acoustic engineer, and several other engineers and designers took the stage for a presentation on how the theater was built, what sort of problems they encountered, etc.

Engineers, architects and designers of the new theater

I'm sure it was an interesting presentation, but considering that my Italian language skills are not near fluent, I only understood a small part of it.  Simone explained some parts of it later to me, and it was interesting to hear about the details of the building.

After the talk, everyone headed outdoors and up the stairs to the outdoor amphitheater.

Yes, I said that right - they have an outdoor amphitheater.  On top of the building.  Amazing.

Although it looks to be made of marble, it's actually made of a special sort of ceramic that is extremely lightweight.  The outdoor space was constructed to be an outdoor venue for concerts and plays.

The best part, in my opinion, though, was the view of Florence from the top.

Ah, I do love this city!

That night, we returned to the theater.  I wish I had gotten some pictures of the building at night, because it's really neat to see all lit up.  The building is lit up behind the metal exterior, causing a really interesting lighting effect that makes it seem like it's made up of a bunch of rectangles of light.  The walk up through the piazza was really nice.  Two days prior, there had been the gala opening that was attended by famous politicians and other famous people, such as Sophia Loren.  They had lights directed across the pathway in green, white and red - the tricolore of the Italian flag.  It was absolutely beautiful.

The concert itself was magnificent.  We saw Claudio Abbado conduct the Orchestra e Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentio and the Orchestra Mozart of Bologna.  They performed Johannes Brahms Schicksalslied op. 54, and Gustav Mahler Sinfonia n.9.  The music was incredible and after the last note was played, the entire audience lept to their feet and cries of "bravissimi!" echoed throughout the crowd while they applauded.  Signor Abbado made five curtain calls, but the crowd continued applauding.  We left 15 minutes after the concert and there was still a large crowd continuing to applaud!

If you are a lover of the arts, then I definitely recommend checking out this new theater in Florence.  They intend to keep it open during the day to the public, so if you're in town, take some time to take a look at this amazing building.  And if you can, try to catch a performance, too!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Primavera - springtime - is my favorite season.  In Tuscany, it is especially beautiful!  The countryside becomes a bit greener, flowers start to bloom, and the temperatures become pleasant once again.

Blossoms in Giardino di Boboli

Not only is it incredibly beautiful, it is one of the most perfect times to visit Italy.  It is not yet the "high season" (which runs from June until September), so airfare and accommodations are usually much less expensive.

Olive trees dotting the Tuscan landscape in April

Another benefit is that there are not as many tourists as there are in the summer months, so it's easier to visit some of the more popular museums and tourist sites.  Also, if you can time your visit right, you can take advantage of the Settimana della Cultura...the "week of culture" where all state-run museums, sites, etc offer free admission!  Granted, the lines can be a bit longer,'s FREE.

Standing in a very long line for free admission to Palazzo Pitti, April 2011
This year, the Settimana della Cultura is April 14th through the 22nd.  So unless you can hop a plane soon, you'll probably miss it this year.  Don't worry, it will come around again!

Primavera marks the start of picnic season.  The spring breezes may still be cool, but the sun makes up for it.  Many people pack a light lunch or stop by a market to buy some fresh goodies and then  head to a park and enjoy their lunch.  Oh, and of course after lunch, there is nothing better to do than stretch out on the ground and take a nap in the afternoon sun!

Giardino di Boboli...a lovely place for an afternoon nap!
Some days the temperatures may actually be warm enough to allow a trip to the beach.  Springtime at the beach is much less crowded than during the summer.  You may have an entire stretch of sand to yourselves!  Keep in mind, many beaches will charge you "admission", but with a little research, you can find free stretches of beach to visit where all you need is your blanket and some sunscreen.

Almost deserted beach near Viareggio
Of course, with springtime comes Easter.  Easter in Florence is an amazing experience.  The bells of the churches are completely silent during Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday.  It's a strange thing to not hear the bells chiming throughout the day, but then, on Easter Sunday when they finally start peeling again, it's a very moving experience.

The biggest tradition in Florence on Easter is the Scoppio del Carro (explosion of the cart).  An ancient wooden cart (over 500 years old) is paraded through the town from Porta al Prato to the Piazza del Duomo, pulled by huge white oxen decked out in garlands of fresh spring flowers.  They park the cart directly in front of the cathedral doors and the oxen are led away for the remainder of the festivities.  The priest blesses the cart and later, when the "Gloria" is proclaimed during Easter Mass, the priest lights a fuse attached to a mechanical "dove" that is attached to a wire.  The dove then streaks from the alter, through the church, and out the door until it comes in contact with the cart, igniting fireworks and "exploding" the cart.  It's an amazing thing to witness, so if you are in Florence for Easter, you should definitely make an attempt to see it!  (Unfortunately, I have not witnessed this myself, yet.  I have seen video and photos and can't wait to be able to see it for myself!  Last year when I was there, I was sick during Easter and wasn't able to get out to see it.  Maybe next year!)

Piazza del Duomo...where the Scoppio del Carro takes place each  year.
Wishing everyone a Buona Pasqua (Happy Easter) and an enjoyable spring!