Music has had a fundamental role in Florence's cultural life since the late sixteenth century, when, from the intellectual and artistic experience of the “Camerata dei Bardi”, melodrama was born.
Today's center for music and dramatic art is the Theater of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, which has its headquarters in the Municipal Theater of Florence.
Since 1933 this institution organizes every year the Maggio Musicale Festival, the most ancient and prestigious festival in Europe toghether with Bayreuth's and Salisbury's Festivals, plus annual seasons of high quality concerts, opera and ballet.
The Municipal Theater was engineered in 1862 by architect Telemaco Bonaiuti, based on an existing outdoor arena called “Florentine Politeama”.
Today the Theater's actual structure consists in a large pit, a row of balconies and two large galleries for a total of 2003 seats. Right beside the pricipal stage, there's a secondary stage, called “Piccolo Teatro”, a modern foyer containing up to 600 seats.
Partially destroyed twice, once in 1944 by a bombardment, and again in 1966 by a flood, the Theater was both times promptly restored, symbolizing the city's will of rebirth and strong civic sense (symbolized as well by the special concert staged in Piazza della Signoria in 1993, right after the terrorist attack at the Uffizi Gallery).
The most prestigious names of international music have performed on our stage: conductors such as Vittorio Gui, Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Zubin Mehta, Herbert von Karajan and Riccardo Muti; the divine Maria Callas; Pietro Mascagni and Richard Strauss, Paul Hindemith and Bela Bartòk, Igor Stravinskij and Luigi Dallapiccola, Luigi Nono, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio as interpreters of their own works.
Along with these excellent musicians and singers, directors and scenographers such as Max Reinhardt and Gustav Gründgens, Luchino Visconti and Franco Zeffirelli, Luca Ronconi and Bob Wilson, Giorgio De Chirico and Oskar Kokoschka.
Founded in 1933 by Vittorio Gui, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino festival is one of the most important festivals worldwide. Born as a three-year event, it became annual in 1937, and since then it is an unmissable appointment for all music and opera lovers. Since its origins Maggio Festival imposed itself to international attention because of some original cultural choices: first of all, the attention given to “visuality” issues in lirical opera's staging, followed by the decision to seek the cooperation with the best theater directors and set and cotumes designers as well as interantionally known painters and sculptors, was a crucial step for the development of modern opera. Then, the constant exploration of twentieth century's music, from its avantgardes to its most recent experiences - often pursued with the authors themselves - toghether with the rediscovery of some forgotten masterpieces of the past led to phenomena such as Rossini-Renaissance and to Donizetti's and Verdi's first works re-evaluation.
Not to forget some thematic editions of the Festival, which inquired on certain moments of music's history, such as the Rossinian festival in 1952, or those of 1964, 1994 and 1995, dedicated respectively to Expressionism, twentieth century's history and first Romanticism.
And last but not least, the constant presence of great interpreters, conductors and singers has always been an essential part of these ambitious projects, allowing sometimes even to re-interpret traditional pieces of art with innovative points of view.
While the Festival takes place in May and June, the Theater's activity goes on all year long with its opera, concert and ballet season and the special summer perfomances staged in the magnificent scenario of Boboli's Garden: a rich and wide ranged music program which provides an unmissable occasion for an interational audience.
Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino