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The Baths of Caracalla Opera, Rome

The archaeological site of the Roman Baths Terme di Caracalla in the heart of Rome is one of the most unique and stunning settings for Opera and Concert performances.

The Caracalla Baths were opened in 216 AD by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antonio Bassiano known as Caracalla, though it is thought that the original idea for new Baths accommodating thousands of people at the same time was his fathers, Settimio Severo. Free to all it was a vibrant social hub back in the days of Ancient Rome where Romans would go to socialize and be entertained. It therefore seems highly appropriate that it is now turned into an open air theatre of entertainment every summer.

The Baths were finally finished in 230 AD after further decoration had been added. The decorations included mosaics and many wonderful now famed statues, such as the famous Farnese Bull, Farnese Hercules and the 13ft high statue of Asclepius. Called one of the 7 wonders of Rome in the 5th century, at their peak they were taking a daily capacity of 8,000 people with 1,600 bathing at any one time.

However during the Gothic War siege in 530 AD when the water supply was cut off they were abandoned and fell into ruin, though it appears it was used as an area of burial for pilgrims. In 847 an earthquake destroyed many of the buildings. Over time they were plundered for building materials and many of the fine decorations can be seen around Italy including Pisa Cathedral, or excavated and placed for safekeeping in museums such as at the Vatican and in Naples.

In 1937 the Governor of Rome, Piero Colonna had the idea of turning it into an Open–air theatre in the summer with the Teatro dell’ Opera. The experiment was agreed with the Rome Opera Company’s first performance taking place on the 1st August where Lucia of Lammermoor and Tosca was performed with 7,000 people watching. There were 5 performances and it was deemed a huge success that could be expanded on. Therefore the following year the number of performances increased to 40 and an auditorium for 20,000 people was built with the stage moving from the tepidarium to the more spacious calidarium with Aida being the lead Opera. It is incredible to imagine that almost 500 singers, dancers and mime artists were involved in this performance in the heart of the Ancient ruins.

The Caracalla Opera has continued ever since, with a brief pause during the Second World War between 1940-1945, until it stopped in 1993 due to concerns about the impact on the ruins. It is also a concert venue and the first Three Tenors Concert was held here in 1990.

In 2001 a new moveable stage was constructed outside the heart of the ruins thereby reducing pressure on the precious ancient ruins. It has now become an annual event that thrills locals and tourists alike offering Opera in such evocative surroundings, including a mix of classics and well known Operas as well as some more contemporary works. The acoustics are surprisingly good for an outdoor setting that was not designed with this in mind, and the stunning setting lit up by the lightshows projected onto the Baths ruins really does ensure a wonderful evening. See our range of trips that include the Caracalla Rome Opera.

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