Every year, Verona’s 1st-century Roman amphitheatre transforms into the setting for the Verona Opera Festival. It’s a summer-long series of operas, all performed al fresco on a stage set up within the amphitheatre. Audiences fill the Arena’s seats and take in evening showings of classics like Aida and Tosca. It’s the highlight of Verona’s summer, and of Italy’s musical calendar. Interested? Here’s all you need to know about visiting the Verona Opera Festival.
What’s on in 2016?
This year, the Verona Opera Festival runs from 24 June to 28 August. You can find the full programme of operas on the festival’s website, which has all the dates and times listed. This year, the festival is showing Carmen, Aida, La Traviata, Turandot and Il Trovatore, as well as a ballet performance from Roberto Bolle and friends.
What time do performances start and finish?
Performances start at 9pm in June and July, and 8.45pm in August (unless delayed due to bad weather). Duration varies, but they’re usually around three hours, including intervals.
How can I book tickets?
We can book your tickets for you – just give us a call on 01293 762410 (calls charged at local or national rates). Alternatively, you can book them via the official website.
What are the prices like?
Prices vary greatly depending on where you want to sit and when you want to visit (Friday and Saturday performances are more expensive than Sunday-Thursday ones). Seats start at €22 for an unreserved stone step seat and go up to €204 for a gold section stall seat. If you’re under 30 or over 65, you’ll be able to purchase reduced rate tickets, which start at €19.
What are the different seating options?
Unreserved stone steps – these are high up and are the cheapest tickets you can buy. The side sections (C and F) are cheaper than the middle sections (D and E). It’s essential to bring a cushion or two to sit on – you can hire these in the Arena. For a good seat, you’ll need to get in early – the gates open around 6.30pm. People start queuing a little before this, so join the queue and get comfy once you’re in, as it’s a couple of hours’ wait before the performance starts. The best acoustics are supposedly near the Ala (the last remaining section of the Arena’s original outer ring).
Numbered seat on the steps – these are metal flip-down seats. They’re tiered, so you get an almost unblocked view of the Arena floor and stage. You might want to hire a cushion here as well, as the seats aren’t the most comfortable. Seats in the central sections are more expensive.
Arena floor – these are proper seats and come in a few different price categories depending on location. One thing to note is that the Arena floor is only on a slight gradient, so if there is someone tall in front of you, you might not get the view you were expecting.
Where can I get food and drink?
Outside the Arena, there are plenty of places to eat. If you have an unreserved stone step ticket, it’s a good idea to prepare a picnic, as you’ll want to get in early to get a position you like. You can buy snacks and drinks from lots of places around Piazza Bra (if you’re coming from Lake Garda, you can bring something with you). Wine is allowed but glass is not, so decant it into a couple of plastic bottles. If you have a reserved seat, you only need to enter shortly before the performance starts, so you can have dinner in a restaurant. Lots of restaurants in our Verona hotels offer pre-opera dinners, which generally start at around 6.30pm. There are places to have post-opera dinners, as well. You can buy refreshments inside the Arena – before the performance starts, you’ll see vendors wandering around the seating areas.
What happens if it rains?
The operas will not take place if it’s raining. Organisers will never cancel shows before the scheduled start time, and will delay the start up to 150 minutes if there is hope that the weather will clear up. If your performance is cancelled, you’ll be able to get a refund at the ticket office or by post. If your performance is stopped at any time before the end of the first act, you’ll be able to buy another ticket of the same category for a different date at a 50% discount. The replacement ticket can be for this year’s festival or next year’s.
Where can I find out more info?
There’s plenty of information available on the Verona Opera Festival website. Alternatively, give us a call and one of our Italy Experts can advise you.
Getting to Verona Arena
The Arena is in the centre of Verona, in Piazza Bra.
From Lake Garda: There is no public transport to Lake Garda after the opera ends. For most performances, our Italy Experts can book you seats on a coach. They tend to leave the lake late afternoon to arrive into Verona for 6.30pm, when the gates open. Alternatively, you can book a private car to take you there – we can sort this out before you even leave the UK, just give us a call.
Insider tips from our Verona Experts
“I have seen Aida, Nabucco and Carmen at the opera festival – Carmen was my favourite, as there was more action on the stage. I’m not really an opera follower, however the whole evening experience is fabulous, and there are always parts of the opera where you recognise the music (mainly from TV adverts or films).
“For all the performances I have had seats on the stone steps, as these supposedly have the best acoustics – the wind has to be blowing in the right direction, though. I would definitely recommend one of the reserved seats on the stone steps, as this means you can enter shortly before the performance, you don’t have to fight for a good place, and in general you will get an unobstructed view of the Arena and stage.” Lisa Pickering
“Sometimes, before the performance starts, someone in the cheaper seats is highlighted with a ray of light. This person and a friend then get to sit right on the stage in some really great side seats, which must be a great experience. Normally they pick someone well dressed, so go smarter if you’re hoping to be picked out!
“Look out for an unmarked box filled with little candles when you enter. These are free, and you can light them up at the beginning of the performance to celebrate the times before the arena had no electricity and the candles illuminated the scenery. It looks beautiful when they’re all lit up.
“I’d highly recommend bringing a copy of the synopsis, or at least looking it up before you go. Although I like the opera, I don’t really understand it without the synopsis – I bring it along so I can follow the plot.” Caroline Fisher
Have you visited the Verona Opera Festival? Are you planning on going this year?
Originally published on June 10 2015, updated for 2016.