Theater history

The fire in 1745 that destroyed Bologna’s all wooden Teatro Malvezzi is the beginning of the story of Bologna’s opera house.  Following the fire, the city commissioned Antonio Galli Bibiena, a member of the famous family of theatre architects and stage designers, to build a new all stone opera theatre in the then current baroque style.  On 14 May 1763, the Teatro Comunale opened its doors to the public with the premiere performance of Gluck’s Il trionfo di Clelia. Accounts from the time report that some 1,500 persons attended the inaugural event – this at a time when Bologna’s total population was only 70,000. 

 Since then the Comunale stage has become famous for the high quality of its performances and the fame of the artists coming from all over the world. Bologna’s musical culture is well known:  composers, including Mozart, studied at Bologna’s Music Academy; Rossini lived in town for years and saw his operas staged on the Comunale; and Verdi worked in nearby Busseto and Sant’Agata. In 1867 the first Italian performance of Don Carlo took place here only a few months after the Paris premiere. 

 But the city and the theatre were also receptive to works and artists from outside Italy. By being the first Italian theatre to stage Wagner’s Lohengrin, Tannhauser, Der fliegende Holländer, Tristan und Isolde, and Parsifal, the Teatro Comunale earned for Bologna the reputation of the “Wagnerian” city. During the first Italian performance of Lohengrin, Verdi sat in a Teatro box reading his rival’s opera score.  

Conductors who have appeared at the theatre include Mariani, Toscanini, Furtwängler, von Karajan, Gavazzeni, Celibidache, Solti, Delman and more recently Muti, Abbado, Chailly, Thielemann, Sinopoli, Gatti and Jurowski. 

The great historical voices of the nineteenth century have all passed on the Comunale stage. In the twentieth century singers such as Stignani, Schipa, Gigli, Di Stefano, Christoff, Tebaldi, Del Monaco and, more recently, Pavarotti, Freni, Bruson, Horne, Ludwig, Anderson performed in this theater.
Today Teatro Comunale di Bologna continues its tradition of excellence.

The most recent productions have been designed by Pier Luigi Pizzi, Luca Ronconi, Bob Wilson, Pier’Alli, Werner Herzog and Calixto Bieito. The Theater avails itself of the collaboration of 95 orchestra professors and 70 choir artists and produces around 80 opera performances and 30 symphonic concerts in one season.

In addition to serving Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna region, the Theater has traveled abroad: we remember the tours in Japan in the years 1993, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2011, as well as participating in important international festivals such as Aix en Provence in 2005 and Savonlinna in 2006.