Franco Zeffirelli’s definitive Carmen opens the 99th Arena di Verona Opera Festival 2022

Making their début, the lead Clémentine Margaine and Luca Micheletti as Escamillo, with tenor Brian Jagde and an international cast of young performers

Everything is ready for the double inauguration of the world’s most popular Opera Festival, now in its 99th edition, and all about the amphitheatre’s two best loved and most performed works: Carmen by Georges Bizet on Friday 17 June, and Aida by Giuseppe Verdi on Saturday 18, both productions by Franco Zeffirelli, great set designer, as well as theatre, opera and film director, whose birth centenary is just a few months away.

Zeffirelli came to the Arena di Verona in summer 1995, with a production of  Carmen that would become legendary. It was in Verona, too that he staged his last Traviata, his artistic summa, broadcast live in world vision just a few days after his death, in the presence of Italian President, Sergio Mattarella. 


Carmen by Georges Bizet | Director: Franco Zeffirelli | From 17.06.2022

Fondazione Arena di Verona begins its tribute Zeffirelli with a performance of Carmen as it has never been seen before: the staging in fact integrates the original 1995 project with Zeffirelli’s best set designs for the performance in 2009 and above all, it adds important elements that have been created for the very first time since Zeffirelli designed them without ever seeing them on stage.

This Carmen aims to be the definitive synthesis of Zeffirelli’s vision, as it developed over the years, with various technical adjustments and the return of the broadest possible approach used for the first production. This has been made possible by the involvement of the Fondazione Franco Zeffirelli, together with the director’s historic collaborators, including Lucia Real, who is using the original choreography by El Camborio with the Arena Dance Corps and special guests, the Spanish dancers of the Compañia Antonio Gades, directed by Stella Arauzo. The costumes are from the original designs by Anna Anni and the lighting has been redesigned by Paolo Mazzon


Carmen Zeffirelli - bozzetto Carmen Zeffirelli - bozzetto Carmen Zeffirelli - bozzetto


Carmen is the undisputed masterpiece of Georges Bizet, inspired by Prosper Mérimée’s own novella, which thanks to librettists Meilhac and Halévy, soon acquired its own original elements with new characters and situations. However, Carmen was not an immediate success; the composer died suddenly during its first run at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.

Carmen went on to become known the world over, with musical recitatives arranged by Bizet’s faithful colleague Guiraud. This was the start of an overwhelming and uninterrupted success, thanks to the powerful drama, the modernity of the theme, the composer’s melodic inventiveness, and the iconic atmosphere of Seville, recreated in the score and on the stage. It was first performed in the Arena di Verona in 1914, the year after the first performance of Aida, and it is the most followed, most popular work still today, second only to Verdi’s queen of the Arena. 

For the inauguration on 17 June and all the other performances of Carmen, Marco Armiliato, Musical Director of the 99th Opera Festival will be conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of the Fondazione Arena di Verona, the children's choir of A.Li.Ve. and an international cast of top performers.

Carmen will also mark the début of French mezzo-soprano Clémentine Margaine in the lead role, as well as an absolute first time at the Arena for baritone Luca Micheletti as bullfighter Escamillo, who will be joining US tenor Brian Jagde as Don José (an eagerly awaited return after the inauguration of 2018), and soprano Karen Gardeazabal as Micaëla. Carlo Bosi and Nicolò Ceriani will be playing the two close-knit smugglers, Remendado and Dancairo, while Carmen’s friends, Frasquita and Mercedes, will be sung by the very young Caterina Sala and Caterina Dellaere, both at the Arena for the first time. The cast is completed by Gabriele Sagona and Biagio Pizzuti as Zuniga and Morales, Don Josè’s superior and colleague respectively. 

These very popular artists are just the first in a legion of international artists who will be performing during the season, making each of the nine performances of Carmen a genuine première. All at the Arena for the first time are lead roles J’Nai Bridges, Elina Garanča and Yulia Matochkina, joined by the charismatic Don Josès of Vittorio Grigolo and Roberto Alagna (both in the role for the first time in Verona). Micaëla will be played by Gilda Fiume (making her début), Maria Teresa Leva and Lavinia Bini, and as Escamillo, baritones Gëzym Myshketa and Claudio Sgura. The cast is completed by newcomers Daniela Cappiello (Frasquita), Sofia Koberidze (Mercedes), Jan Antem (Dancairo), Vincent Ordonneau (Remendado) and Alessio Verna (Morales). 

Other performances: 24, 30 June; 14, 21, 31 July; 11, 14, 27 August.





Aida by Giuseppe Verdi | Director: Franco Zeffirelli | From 17.06.2022

The opening evening of the 99th Arena di Verona Opera Festival will be dedicated to the memory of two of the most prominent opera singers of the 20th century, both very important in the history of the Arena: 2022, in fact marks the centenary of both soprano Renata Tebaldi and baritone Ettore Bastianini. 

Saturday 18 June at 9:15pm sees the return of Aida in the first of eleven performances at the 2022 Festival, which brings back the golden Egypt and its multicoloured sumptuous fabrics, as imagined by Franco Zeffirelli for Arena di Verona exactly twenty years ago, together with Anna Anni’s costumes and the original choreography of Vladimir Vasiliev. Zeffirelli’s aesthetically brilliant work  perfectly reflects the dual soul of the Arena’s best-loved, most-performed opera, from its first season in 1913. In fact Verdi's masterpiece sets a love triangle in the shadow of the pyramids, in a balance of intimacy and grandeur, and sending a timeless message of peace. 

Solemnity and exoticism, triumph and heart-wrenching drama, a touching story of love and jealousy, revenge and regret, condemnation of war and injustice: all with Verdi's superb score, based on an original scenario by Egyptologist Auguste Mariette. Expert conductor Daniel Oren, much loved by audiences in Verona and internationally is back on the podium, and after the initial performances, he will be alternating with Musical Director Marco Armiliato.

The cast for the opening night will include soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, making her début in the Arena in the lead role alongside tenor Murat Karahan as Radamès and mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk as Amneris. Legendary bass Ferruccio Furlanetto will be the high priest Ramfis, alongside newcomers Sava Vemić (King) and Roman Burdenko (Amonasro), Francesca Maionchi (High Priestess) and Messenger Carlo Bosi. As well as the Orchestra, the Chorus, prepared by Ulisse Trabacchin, and the Stage Technicians of Fondazione Arena di Verona, the Dance Corps returns, coordinated by Gaetano Petrosino with the participation of international stars Ana Sophia Scheller, Ekaterina Olenyk and Fernando Montano.  

For Aida too, the list of performers who will be seen on the Arena’s immense stage includes some of the biggest names on the international panorama, many of whom are debuting their role at the Arena, alongside the best young emerging talents, including Anna Netrebko, Latonia Moore, Yusif Eyvazov, Fabio Sartori, Olesya Petrova, Anna Maria Chiuri, Gűnther Groissbőck, Michele Pertusi, Ambrogio Maestri, and Amartuvshin Enkhbat, to name a few…

Other performances: 23 June; 3, 8, 16, 24, 28 July; 5, 21, 28 August; 4 September.





Soci Fondatori e Partner

Founding Members

Major Partner Arena di Verona Opera Festival