Post Opera Review: Don Giovanni At The Arena di Verona

If you have the opportunity to visit Italy’s “Opera City,” you must pay Arena di Verona a visit.  

Don Giovanni

Monuments in Italy are plentiful. Millions of people every year walk through the Colosseum or the Roman Forum to see the skeletons of ancient civilization and the remnants of antiquity. We look at them and admire their magnificence, but what of their former purpose?

The Arena di Verona is an example of a monument that has withstood the test of time, yet retained its original purpose. Since the year of its construction in the first century A.D., the arena continues to serve as an amphitheater for the citizens of Verona. The Arena is home to the renowned summer opera festival; but it has also hosted plays, ballets, and musical guests such as Pink Floyd, The Who, Elton John, and Muse. If you have the opportunity to visit Verona, Italy’s “opera city,” you must pay this venue a visit. To see an Italian opera in the Arena di Verona is a cultural experience unlike any other.


If you do get a chance to visit, make sure to get there early and pick up your candle at the entrance. It is tradition to light up the amphitheater with candlelight at the start of the overture. Before the night falls, the waning daylight is infused with the discordant melody of musicians tuning their instruments. You will know it is nearly time to begin when the sun sets over the arched façade, deepening the hue of the ancient rose-colored limestone. It is the very same rock that accommodated Roman civilians more than twenty centuries ago. A hush will settle over the audience as the trail of flickering candlelight completes its path around the amphitheater. Only then does the maestro mount the podium and raise his hands.

When I visited the Arena di Verona for the concert festival, I saw Don Giovanni staged by Franco Zeffirelli. It was my first opera, and I came with the preconceived notion that opera was an acquired taste and that I would be unable to appreciate it. However, I left happily with a new impression. I certainly gained a respect for the art; opera looks like hard work. The performance was loaded with large-scale choreographed dance routines, ornate costuming, stage changes, and a great deal of theater. It was the singer’s dramatic expressions and impassioned gestures that helped me grasp the basic plot. By the end of my experience, I learned that first time operagoers shouldn’t scrutinize the storyline. It is far more enjoyable to “kick back” in an ancient Roman amphitheater and let the warm air imbued with Mozart just wash over you.

Don Giovanni

Here are some tips for your next opera visit. The 2013 schedule is already posted!

Arena di Verona Opera Festival Checklist:

1. Check the weather:

Rain will send all the musicians running for cover. If there is any chance of rain, be prepared for rain delays or a cancelation.

2. Get tickets:

Prices range from 12,50 Euros to 109 Euros. I sat in sector D of the unreserved stone steps for 13,50 Euros and still had a great view. I could hear very well. I was able to buy this ticket at the box office on the day of the opera.

3. Dress appropriately:

If you are an opera aficionado seated in the first or second sector stalls, you will want to dress formally. The unreserved stone steps are much more casual.

Don Giovanni

3.  Arrive early:

In the unreserved seating section, you can get much better seats if you beat everyone else to them.

4. Pick up a candle:

Be a part of tradition. The candles are located at several of the entrances in large boxes.

5. Bring wine, cushions and blankets:

The stone steps are hard very hard. Lots of people in the unreserved steps will bring seat cushions and cozy up in blankets. I also saw many people enjoying a light picnic style snack with wine before the show started.

Don Giovanni

6. Sit back and enjoy the show:

Opera is a lively affair. Try to take it all in.

*Bonus: Read Ahead:

I saw several Italians following along in thin, pamphlet-like books. These are the libretto, the text of the opera. Even if you read the libretto in English, it will give you a basic understanding of the plot so you don’t have to worry about it when you get there.

Article written by Lauren Goerz.

Don Giovanni VERONA

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