Florence is famous for its wealth of culture. From its breath-taking Renaissance art to its delicious cuisine, or from its long history to its glorious Tuscan landscapes there is more than enough to fill a lifetime. Today the city is home to some wonderful music, concerts and venues.
Ask Italophiles to name their favourite city and more than a few will cite Florence. It seems to exert considerable fascination for foreigners and garners respect among many Italians. Florence has made excellence and innovation its hallmark. Most people think of it as the cradle of the Italian Renaissance, the place where almost every great Italian writer and artist, including Dante, Petrarch, Giotto, Brunelleschi, Leonardo and Michelangelo, left ample evidence of their genius. The capital of Tuscany is also the birthplace of opera. A group called the Camerata Fiorentina, a collection of aesthetes, created a new art form in 1597: opera lirica, or lyric work. They reasoned that if they combined the ancient arts–poetry, music, dance, instrumental music, visual arts, stagecraft, costuming, etc.–they could produce something new. This new music form took some time to catch on though It took the arrival of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) from Cremona to ignite opera lirica. Using a libretto by Alessandro Striggio (1573-1630), Monteverdi composed the first opera that is still performed with any frequency, La favola di Orfeo(1607).
Since then music, and particularly opera, has played a large part in Florence’s history and today the city has a thriving music scene with several concert venues. I have previously written about the wonderful Maggio Musicale Florentino so will be focussing on a few of the other institution in this marvellous city.
Amici Della Musica
Teatro Della Pergola by Duncano, re di Scozia
Founded in 1920, theAmici della Musica or Friends of Music is one of the oldest and most prestigious concert groups in Florence. The group presents some of the best works and performers on the international scene. And its home is the beautiful Teatro della Pergola, Florence’s oldest theatre built in in 1656, so you can enjoy a wonderful Florentine evening from boxes once maintained for the private entertainment of the city’s aristocracy and social elite. This year their programme, at Teatro della Pergola ais packed with some of the most accomplished musicians around. Here are just some of the highlights of a wide and diverse programme for 2020.
A master player of the cello-like gamba, world class conductor and researcher of early music , Savall has been one of the world’s most beloved figures in early music for 50 years. He has shown us how early music can be enthralling and relevant in the 21st Century. The performance takes place at the Teatro della Pergola on 16 Feb 2020 at 21.00h.
Nineteen year-old Russian pianist Alexander Malofeev is already a celebrity. Thanks to YouTube and social media, the former child prodigy who won the Tchaikovsky International Youth Piano Competition at 13 has a universal following now. A remarkable talent, Malofeev performs solo recitals and plays as a soloist with major orchestras, cooperating with leading conductors such as Valery Gergiev and Vladimir Spivakov. This performance takes place on 7 March 2020 at Teatro della Pergolla at 16.00h
Widely acclaimed as a key figure in the music of our time and as a uniquely significant interpreter of piano repertoire from every age, Pierre-Laurent Aimard enjoys an internationally celebrated career. Aimard is currently Artisit Director of the Aldeburgh Festival. This performance takes place on 16 March 2020 at Teatro della Pergolla at 21.00h
Austrian Hagen Quartett has been at the pinnacle of the classical music world for more than 35 years. The quartet has won pretty much every prize and competition going. The group’s concert repertoire and discography feature attractive and intelligently arranged programmes embracing the entire history of the string quartet, from its pre-Haydn beginnings right through to Kurtág. The Hagen Quartett also works closely with composers of its own generation, whether by reviving existing works or by commissioning and premiering new pieces. his performance takes place on 28 March 2020 at Teatro della Pergolla at 16.00h
St. Mark’s Anglican Church
For a truly intimate setting why not try St Mark’s Anglican Church. Founded in 1877 the church is a beautiful architectural gem built originally as part of a palace owned by the Medicis and then the infamous Renaissance strategist and philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. Now in its 14th season of “opera at St Mark’s” the church has been delighting visitors with critically acclaimed performances for years. And the best part is that you’re seated only a few meters away from the performers so can enjoy full immersion in the dramatic stories and soaring sopranos’ singing. This year’s programme offers a plethora of the best-loved operas in Italy. This season’s operas: La Bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly , La Traviata, Rigoletto, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte, The Barber of Seville, Carmen, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Fille du Regiment, Elisir d’Amore. There is so much to chose from! Please contact us for more details.
Chiesa di Santa Monaca
Chiesa Santa Monica is tucked in an ally a few blocks south of the Arno. Built in the 15th century, the building features simple but beautiful sculptures and paintings. It is a small but intimate venue that creates a wonderful acoustic venue for opera performances.
Chiesa Di Santa Monica photo by Sailko
From 1st March to 31st October 2020 there is a concert every day which starts at 9.15pm and finishes at 10.30pm , including arias and duets from popular operas such as Tosca, La Traviata, Madame Butterfly, The Marriage of Figaro and more.
New Year’s Eve Dinner and Opera Gala on 31st December
9.00pm: Admission time
9.30pm: Buffet Dinner (with Tuscan specialties)
10.45pm: The best arias and duets from:
La Traviata, La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Barber of Seville, and traditional Italian songs
12.00pm: Midnight toast
Auditorium di Santo Stefano al Ponte
Santo Stefano Al Ponte, Florence photo by :Mattes
Santo Stefano al Ponte is one of the first churches that arose in Florence inside the Roman walls. Originally built around 1100, it owes its name to the immediate adjacency of the bridge (not the Ponte Vecchio, which in the twelfth century was not yet there, but of the Roman precedent). The beautiful church makes for an intimate setting to listen to concerts and opera performances.
One of the most popular evenings here is the performance by;
The Three Tenors
In the Auditorium Santo Stefano al Ponte Vecchio, the soloists are accompanied by a chamber ensemble of mandolin, cello, and piano. Famous arias from ‘La Traviata’, ‘Rigoletto’, and ‘Tosca’ share the program with Neopolitan favorites like ‘O sole mio’, ‘Funiculì Funiculà’, and ‘Torna a Surriento’. Often the night is preceded by a delicious dinner and sometimes with ballet which just adds the the enjoyment of the evening. The Three Tenors are Mattia Nebbiai, Claudio Sassetti, Leonardo Sgroi.
Performances are on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays throughout the year, at 20.30h.
Music is a constant companion on Florence, with the live music scene picking up more momentum as the year goes on. This year’s operas, festivals and concerts in and around Florence span all manner of genres, generations and venues.
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