There’s a strong tradition of theatre in Italy dating back thousands of years, and theatres offer a wide variety of plays and musicals, which are performed in Italian unless there’s a visiting company from abroad.
The most famous Italian theatres
Italy boasts a vast number of theatres throughout the country, among the most famous of which are the Ponchielli in Cremona, the Carlo Felice in Genoa, La Scala in Milan, Politeama in Palermo, the Opera Theatre in Rome, the Regio Lingotto in Turin and the Fenice in Venice.
In summer, the amphitheatre in Verona and the Terme di Caracalla and Coliseum in Rome offer a series of spectacular plays. Local tourist offices and newspapers provide information on theatrical events, as do billboards and town hall notice boards.
Milan has a long-standing tradition of the theatre. For centuries, some of its theatres and opera houses have been the performance sites of some of the best opera singers, composers and musicians, dancers, and playwrights and actors, both traditional and avant-garde.
In contrast to their importance, the number of theatres in Milan is sparse, with most of them sitting in and around the Brera neighborhood – district of culture and nightlife par excellence – and putting on more than 300 performances annually, ranging from traditional and contemporary theatre productions to variety and cabaret.
The theatre of all Milanese theatres is, of course, La Scala, one of the most important opera houses in the world. Since its inauguration in 1778, innumerable opera presentations have decorated the stage here, including a few of the classics: Verdi’s Nabucco (1842), Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and Turandot (1904 and 1924, respectively), and Il Turco in Italia (A Turk in Italy) by Gioacchino Rossini (1814). The theatre resides in one of the most elegant and beloved piazzas in the city (Piazza della Scala, a central position that perfectly demonstrates its cultural importance), and near it is situated one of the most important attractions, the Duomo.
The theatre’s inaugural and defining performance was Hotel for the Poor by Maxim Gorki; since this beginning, Il Piccolo has maintained its character as a theatre that features big ideas and big problems as protagonists, rather than big names – producing plays by Goldoni, Chekhov and Bertolt Brecht, and becoming a favorite of foreign and Italian intellectuals. It also boasts a theatre academy, and is referenced as a place of art with a central position in a hip cultural zone of the city.