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Stagehands prepare the floating stage on Lake Constance for a performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot during a past  Bregenz Festival. This year’s festival will produce Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Stagehands prepare the floating stage on Lake Constance for a performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot during a past Bregenz Festival. This year’s festival will produce Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. (iStock)

Since the staging of a work by the name of Dafne, penned by Italian composer Jacopo Peri around 1597, Europeans have been enjoying various forms of operatic performances. While these dramatic works set to music are traditionally performed in opulent opera houses, the summer months present a short window of opportunity for the staging of these masterful works in the great outdoors. From 2,000-year-old amphitheaters to disused quarries to floating stages, the following is a look are some of the Continent’s most iconic outdoor opera festivals and the productions to be staged in 2022.

Bregenz, Austria: This festival can trace its history back to 1946, when two barges moored on Lake Constance served a makeshift stage for an early work of Mozart. Since then, the festival next to a vast lake lapping the shores of Austria, Germany and Switzerland has grown in scale and reputation. Each production on the lake’s stage brimming with elaborate backdrops and technological wizardry enjoys a two-year season; 2022 sees the premiere of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. The tragic tale of a Japanese geisha who falls in love with a U.S. naval officer premieres July 20 and is performed on 25 evenings through Aug. 21. The opera is sung in Italian and presented with German subtitles. Ticket prices range from some 30 to 150 euros. Tours of the world’s largest lake stage are also offered on selected dates between May 30 and Aug. 21; tickets go for 7.50 euros. Online: bregenzerfestspiele.com/en

St. Margarethen in Burgenland, Austria: Some 2000 years ago, mining took place in the Margarethen Quarry, whose limestone was used in the construction of the Carnuntum Roman Fortress, St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna and many other edifices. The rock auditorium that took shape over time now serves as the backdrop for concerts, operas and operettas performed on two separate stages. The quarry’s steep stone walls lend it a unique atmosphere and superb acoustics. Opera in the Quarry 2022 is Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco, which follows the plight of the Jews under the rule of the megalomaniac Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The play premieres July 13 and is performed 18 times before its last showing on Aug. 14. Ticket prices range between 43 and 146 euros. Online: tinyurl.com/2s3bub7u

Orange, France: A small town just a few miles north of Avignon is the venue for the Chorégies d'Orange, France's oldest festival. Since its start back in 1869, the festival has distinguished itself with its adherence to the Greco-Latin tradition and its location: a UNESCO World Heritage-listed theater from Roman times, considered the best preserved theater in all Europe. The theater owes much of its fame to a magnificent, 120 foot-high stage wall, unique in the Western world. A venue for shows in Roman times, it continues in this role today. In contrast to other opera festivals, this festival offers one-off performances. Amongst the performances scheduled this season are L’elisir d’amore (July 8); Italian Night with La Scala in Milan (July 20); and La Gioconda (Aug. 6). Ticket prices vary. Online: choregies.fr/?lang=fr

Torre del Lago, Italy: The Festival Puccini takes place in the town beloved by the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini and just a few miles from Lucca, his place of birth. In July and August each year, the Tuscan town between lake and sea presents exclusively the operas of its famous son. The open-air theater sits close to the house in which the composer lived and work after having it built in 1900. A small chapel inside the villa serves as Puccini's burial spot. The festival was held sporadically between 1930 and 1966, at which time it became an annual event. The year 2022 sees the production of Madama Butterfly, Turandot, Tosca and La Rondine on 13 dates between July 15 and Aug. 27. Ticket prices range from 19.50 to 169 euros. Online: puccinifestival.it

Verona, Italy: The Verona Arena (Arena di Verona) is a Roman amphitheater in the city of the same name. The 30 AD construction, considered one of the best preserved ancient structures of its type, is still in use today and is world famous for its large-scale opera performances. Since 1913, the arena has hosted operatic performances, pausing only during times of war. Nowadays, up to six productions are staged between June and August each year. As the sun sets, attendees light the candles they have been given, creating a timeless, mystical atmosphere. As the cheapest tickets are for seats directly set upon the stone steps, plan to rent cushions or bring your own. Operas for the 2022 season include Nabucco, La Traviata, Aida and Carmen. Ticket prices range on average from 35 to 300 euros. Online: arena.it/en/arena-di-verona

Rome, Italy: On a site where citizens of ancient Rome once washed up and socialized, the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla make an atmospheric venue for catching opera or classical music on balmy summer nights. Since 2001, a temporary stage set up in the central part of the bathing complex has hosted various classical and contemporary concerts and ballets. The operas among this year’s offerings include George Bizet’s Carmen (July 15-Aug. 4) and Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (Aug. 2-9). Tickets are not yet available. Online: tinyurl.com/ycksse7f


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