- Title: How you turn a chariot racing arena into an opera venue
- Date: 13th July 2020
- Summary: PIANIST PLAYING PIANO VARIOUS OF ACTORS REHEARSING ON STAGE
- Embargoed: 27th July 2020 11:29
- Keywords: Baths of Caracalla COVID-19 Circus Maximus Italy Rome Opera House ancient Rome entertainment lockdown new coronavirus opera social distancing
- Location: ROME, ITALY
- City: ROME, ITALY
- Country: Italy
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment,Health/Medicine,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA004CMN7PLL
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The 2,800-year-old Circus Maximus, one of the ancient world's biggest public entertainment venues, was where hundreds of thousands of Romans would flock to watch chariot races along the 600-metre racetrack.
Post-lockdown, the Roman arena has been transformed within just one month into a coronavirus-friendly outdoor venue for the Rome Opera House's summer performances.
Since 1937 Rome's summer opera season has taken place at the outdoor Baths of Caracalla but now, due to the new coronavirus pandemic, the historical venue was ruled out for being incompatible with the social distancing rules in place.
The city's opera house then chose the Circus Maximus as an outdoor venue for its socially distanced performances under the stars. And the choice could not have been simpler.
"The Circus Maximus is transformed from a circus to a theatre, an opera house in this case," Rome's Opera House technical director, Francesco Arena, told Reuters. "It somehow returns to its origins and its function as a show venue."
200 builders have been working around the clock in hard hats under the sun since June 19 to finish the construction of the venue, which is surrounded by stunning ruins of the Roman Empire.
Being a vast ancient site, there is enough room to set up seating areas for 1,460 spectators to socially distance as they watch.
The structure of the seats was built following the example of the 'cavea' ("enclosure" in Latin) of ancient greek theatres, with three seating areas allowing the present-day public to comfortably enjoy the performance while keeping social distancing.
Opera-lovers will have their temperature checked at four entrances and will be accompanied to their assigned seats by staff members.
An especially large stage has been set up to cater for the maskless singers to be able to social distance as much as they can and members of the orchestra performing will have to adapt their skills to the social distancing directives as well.
"We tried to transform the limits of interpersonal distance into new forms of representation with great use of technologies that allow us to bring the artists closer to each other and the artists closer to the spectators," Superintendent of Rome's Opera Theatre, Carlo Fuortes, said.
As the country is emerging from an outbreak that killed more than 34,000 Italians, arts and culture had to face drastic changes.
"The new coronavirus is changing the world of art in a profound way... I hope that in a few years this will become just bad memory but in the next few years until we return to a normal life, all institutions will have to work creatively to overcome these moments", Fuortes added.
"It will take some time to return to a normal life, from a production point of view and from the spectators' point of view but until then, unfortunately, we will really have to do our best."
Construction work and rehearsals proceeded feverishly ahead of July 16, when 19th-century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto will kick off the season in the ancient archaeological site that, after centuries, will regain its status of mass entertainment venue.
But it will be a very different atmosphere than the rowdy crowds cheering on their favourite charioteers in ancient times.
(Production: Cristiano Corvino, Gabriele Pileri, Oriana Boselli, Fabiano Franchitti)
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