Teatro San Carlo

“Do you wish to know whether a spark of this devouring flame inspires you? Then run, fly  to Naples and listen to the masterpieces of Leo, Durante Jommelli and Pergolesi”. (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Dictionnaire de Musique)


by Alice Lechner
April 14, 2020


The Teatro Reale di San Carlo (Royal Theatre of Saint Charles), named by the Bourbon monarchy, is the oldest continuously active opera in the world. Many operas were first performed at the Teatro di San Carlo, and seventeen of Gaetano Donizetti’s operas and eight of Gioacchino Rossini’s operas were performed there.

It was 1737 when the first Bourbon of Naples, King Carlos III, affirmed his support towards “a work that unites magnificence and wonder. A theatre! The largest in Europe… destined soon to become the kingdom of opera music in the world”.

San Carlo was inaugurated on November 4th, 1737, the king’s name day, with the performance of the opera Achille in Sciro by Domenico Sarro. The first seasons highlighted the royal preference for dance numbers and featured among the performers famous castrati.

Giovanni Antonio Medrano, a military architect, and Angelo Carasale, the former director of the Sant Bartolomeo, designed the new opera house. The horseshoe-shaped auditorium is the oldest in the world. The fastidious composer and violinist Louis Spohr thoroughly reviewed this opera house’s size and acoustic properties very thoroughly on February 15th, 1817.

In 1809 Domenico Barbaia was appointed manager of the royal houses in Naples and remained in charge until 1841. He established a reputation for innovative and dazzling productions, attracting the public and leading singers.

On February 13th, 1816, a fire broke out during a dress rehearsal for a ballet performance and destroyed a part of the building. On the orders of King Ferdinand IV, the opera house was rebuilt in ten months. It was rebuilt as a traditional horseshoe-shaped auditorium with 1,444 seats. On January 12th, 1817, Stendhal attended the inauguration of the rebuilt theatre. After that, he wrote: “There is nothing in all Europe, I won’t say comparable to this theatre, but which gives the slightest idea of what it is like…., it dazzles the eyes, it enraptures the soul…”.

At the time, the Neapolitan School of opera enjoyed great success all over Europe, in both opera buffa and opera seria. Naples became the capital of European music, and even foreign composers considered the performance of their compositions at the San Carlo as the goal of their career.

From 1815 to 1822, Gioachino Rossini was house composer and artistic director of the royal opera houses, including San Carlo. During this period, he wrote ten operas: Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra (1815), La gazzetta (1816, Otello, ossia il Moro di Venezia (1816), Armida (1817), Mose in Egitto (1818), Ricciardo e Zoraide (1818), Ermione, Bianca e Falliero, Eduardo e Cristina, La donna del Iago (1819), Maometto (1820), Zelmira (1822).

Having composed Zelmira, Rossini left Naples. After Rossini, the next famous composer who came to Naples was Gaetano Donizetti. As artistic director of the royal opera houses, Gaetano Donizetti remained in Naples from 1822 to 1838, composing sixteen operas for the theatre, among which Maria Stuarda (1834), Roberto Devereux (1837), Poliuto (1838) and Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), written for soprano Tacchinardi-Persiani and the tenor Duprez.

Also associated with the theatre was Giuseppe Verdi. In 1841, his opera Oberto Conte di San Bonifacio was performed there.

In 1845 he wrote his first opera for the theatre, Alzira. After that, Verdi had the debut of Ernani in the 1846 season. The next season (1846/1847) was dedicated to Nabucco and Attila. The second work written for San Carlo was Luisa Miller, which had its debut on 8th December 1849. His third opera dedicated to San Carlo should have been Gustavo III (known as Un ballo in maschera). Still, the censor made such significant changes that it was never performed in that version nor under that title (the opera was re-created in 2004).

After the unification of Italy, Naples lost its status as the musical centre of Italy. In 1874, San Carlo closed its doors for a year.

After that, the theatre recovered due to the continued support of Giacomo Puccini and other composers of verismo operas, such as Pietro Mascagni, Ruggero Leoncavallo, Umberto Giordano, and Francesco Cilea, who staged their works here.

It is impossible to mention all the musicians and great conductors that wrote the history of San Carlo: De Lucia, Caruso, Di Stefano, Krauss, Del Monaco, Corelli, Tebaldi, Callas, Gigli, Freni, Caballe, Nucci, Pavarotti, Domingo… Toscanini, Stravinskij, Bernstein, Santini, Muti, Abbado, Busoni, Giulini, Celibidache, Karajan.


Sir Colin Davis
Colin Rex Davis was born on September 25th, 1927, in Weybridge, Surrey, England, and was known for his exceptional interpretations of a wide range of classical and contemporary repertoire. His early exposure to music was through the clarinet, which he started playing at a young age. His interest in conducting developed during his time at...
November 2023
Alice Lechner
Teatro Massimo
We continue our Theaters around the World column, and in this issue, we arrive in Sicily, more precisely in Palermo. It is known that Teatro Massimo di Palermo was, for a long time, the third largest opera house in Europe, after Palais Garnier and Wiener Staatsoper. The construction of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily,...
November 2023
Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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