This is the city that gave birth to great composers, from Vivaldi to Nono and Maderna, the same city where the first opera theatre was opened to the public in the mid-seventeenth century. Over the past centuries its numerous theatres, which distinguished it throughout the world, have hosted the first performances of operas that are fundamental to the history of musical theatre: from Rossini’s early works to Verdi’s Rigoletto and Traviata through to one of Stravinsky’s last works, The Rake’s Progress.
Venice is currently experiencing a reawakening in the field of music and musical theatre and rediscovering one of its multiple identities. A kind of ‘musical district’ has taken shape, where training, research and shows interact, attracting students, researchers and spectators.
The Conservatory, founded in 1867, is in first place for professional training, but the two universities and the Fine Arts Academy also offer courses in music, theatre and the performing arts. Some private institutions are distinguished by their activities in the field of scientific research and music studies, such as the Fondazione Cini, which holds, among other things, archives of many composers, along with copies of all the works by Antonio Vivaldi. The Fondazione Levi promotes and supports research groups and projects by individual researchers, while the Palazzetto Bru Zane focuses on French Romantic music, highlighting little known works by famous composers and assisting in the rediscovery of composers rarely seen in concert programmes.
The Biennale Festival of Contemporary Music, launched sixty years ago, is part of this panorama. It studies and highlights instances and genres of the musical creativity of our day. It has also developed an ‘innovation factory’ where selected young talents are accompanied on an ideational and productive course right through the year by internationally renowned tutors.
The classical music offering in the city is broad and articulate. Musical ensembles have been formed that play in churches or the rooms of some of the Scuole Grandi such as San Rocco and San Teodoro, directed mainly towards tourists but not exclusively. The musical offering of institutions like the Cini with its brand new squero (an exceptional concert hall facing onto St Mark’s Basin), the Palazzetto Bru Zane and Biennale Music is intended rather for an audience of enthusiasts, (residents in particular).
The Fenice theatre always plays the most important role in the city regarding the offer of classical music and especially musical theatre, a primary role also in terms of the direct and indirect employment created by the spin-off in the hospitality and restaurant sector and in activities related to production of the shows.
The increase in the number of shows produced has been a unicum in the Italian panorama, such that the Fenice today, with the Teatro alla Scala and the Nuovo di Torino, is a theatre that breaks even.
One hundred and forty opera shows are produced each year between season (new productions) and repertoire (presentation of productions already performed in previous years), about twenty concerts, a chamber music programme and shows for schools complete the artistic offering, which presents operas with a modern direction intended to modernise the human events represented on the stage and also new productions like the recent Aquagranda, commissioned to commemorate the tragic high tide of 1966 that submerged the city.
This musical cross section reveals a Venice able to compete with the leading international centres in terms of innovation and vitality in the artistic field.