From Giovanni Zenatello to the Fondazione Arena a task carried out for the love of music
In the summer of 1913, to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, the tenor Giovanni Zenatello and the theatre impresario Ottone Rovato took on the financial risk of promoting a magnificent lyrical festival. With the staging of Aida, the Arena di Verona became the biggest open-air lyrical theatre in the world, a supremacy that it still holds today.
During the seventy-nine seasons that can be counted from the summer of 1913, the theatrical organization has undergone numerous transformations.
Since 1914 various individuals have taken it upon themselves to manage the seasons in the Arena amphitheatre. Zenatello, the mind behind the idea of the festival, was among these as well as the company Lyrica Italica Ars (1919-1920), the Casa Musicale Sonzogno of Milan (1921-1922) and the impresario Gino Bertolaso from 1923 to 1926. Renovations were carried out on the scenery, under the management of the Ente Fiera di Verona (the Fair Organization) in 1930 and 1931, while 1934 saw the birth of the Ente Comunale degli Spettacoli (the municipal performance association) which organized the summer festival of the same year.
However, it was in 1936 that the Ente Autonomo Spettacoli Lirici Arena di Verona, also called Ente Lirico Arena di Verona (the autonomous organization for lyrical productions of the Arena di Verona) was formed and from that moment on it was to be the managing Corporation for the productions in the Arena, assisted by the activities of a General manager, who was joined in 1967 by an Art Director, following the regulatory state intervention which involved all of the Lyrical organizations.
Since 1976 the lyrical organization of Verona has expanded its artistic activities, while continuing to guarantee the quality of the productions in the Arena. Symphonic and lyrical productions, as well as ballets are organized from October to May in the Teatro Filarmonico. This theatre was finally rebuilt after it had been destroyed by bombings in the last world war.
With this new addition, the organization could accumulate a permanent collection of artists (the orchestra, the choir and the corps de ballet) and technicians who represent the productions that are staged in Verona and transported nationally and internationally.
Following the legislation order 367 of June 29th, 1996 and the legislation order 134 on April 23rd, 1998, Ente Lirico Arena di Verona was transformed into a private law foundation, the Arena di Verona Foundation, which came into operation on June 22nd, 1998, with Mr. Renzo Giacchieri as the General Manager.
The introduction of private partners represented a great turning point in the life of the Arena, giving a new meaning to the cultural agenda. The Foundation, in fact, like the Ente Lirico Arena di Verona, does not have a lucrative objective and is principally devoted to the development of the most important artistic activity of the city, improving the quality of the productions and their capability of attracting the audience, and promoting the musical education of the public. A great economical and cultural effort was made and this resulted in a record attendance in the Arena season of 2001. This is now reflected in the success of the theatre subscription campaign for the Philharmonic Concert Hall.
If you consider how greatly varied the public attending the lyrical productions is today, the results are most encouraging. From the most passionate lovers of lyrical music to the tourist who descends upon the opera out of curiosity: the Arena creates the meeting point for these two extremities, as it is capable of combining the quality of the music and of the vocal interpretation with the magnificence of the scenography and the magic historical context of the monument.