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Facade of the Teatro dell' Opera
The Teatro dell'Opera di Roma (Rome Opera House) is an opera house in Rome, Italy. Originally opened in November 1880 as the 2,212 seat Costanzi Theatre, it has undergone several changes of name as well modifications and improvements. The present house seats 1,600.

The original Costanzi Theatre, 1880 to 1926

The Teatro dell'Opera was originally known as the Teatro Costanzi after the contractor who built it, Domenico Costanzi (1810-1898). It was privately financed by Costanzi who commissioned the Milanese architect Achille Sfondrini (1836-1900), a specialist in the building and renovation of theatres.

The opera house was built in eighteen months, on the site where the house of Heliogabalus stood in ancient times, and was inaugurated on 27 November 1880 with a performance of Semiramide by Gioachino Rossini.

Designing the theatre, Sfondrini paid particular attention to the acoustics, conceiving the interior structure as a "resonance chamber", as is evident from the horseshoe shape in particular. Originally, the theatre, with a seating capacity of 2212, had three tiers of boxes, an amphitheatre, and two separate galleries, surmounted by a dome with splendid frescoes by Annibale Brugnoli.

Costanzi was obliged to manage it himself and, under his direction, and despite the fact that he had to deal with various financial problems, the opera house held many world premieres of operas, including Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascagni on 17 May 1890. For a brief period, the theatre was managed by Costanzi's son, Enrico, who gained prominence by having organized another great premiere, Tosca by Giacomo Puccini on 14 January 1900.

In 1907, the Teatro Costanzi was purchased by the impresario Walter Mocchi (1870-1955) on behalf of the Società Teatrale Internazionale e Nazionale (STIN). In 1912 Mocchi's wife, Emma Carelli, became the managing director of the new Impresa Costanzi, as the theatre was later known, following various changes in the company structure.

During the fourteen years of her tenure, major works which had not been performed before in Rome (or even in Italy), were staged at the Costanzi. These included La fanciulla del West, Turandot and Il trittico by Giacomo Puccini; Parsifal by Richard Wagner; Francesca da Rimini by Riccardo Zandonai; Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky; Samson et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns and many others. Also, Diaghilev's Les Ballets Russes also performed there.

The Royal Opera House, 1926 to 1946

In November 1926 the Costanzi was bought by the Rome City Council and its name was changed to Teatro Reale dell'Opera. It was partly rebuilt by architect Marcello Piacentini in the following fifteen months and re-opened on 27 February 1928 with the opera Nerone by Arrigo Boito.

The rebuilding resulted in a number of major changes. The entrance, originally located in the street formerly known as Via del Teatro - where the garden of the Hotel Quirinale is presently situated - was moved to the opposite side, where Piazza Beniamino Gigli was subsequently built. The amphitheatre, inside the theatre, was demolished and replaced by a fourth tier of boxes (now the third tier) and the balcony. The interior was also embellished by new stuccowork, decorations and furnishings, as well as a magnificent chandelier measuring 6 meters in diameter and composed of 27,000 crystal drops.

The Rome Opera House, 1946 to present

Following the end of the monarchy, the name of the opera house was changed to Teatro dell'Opera, and in 1958, the building was remodeled and modernized once again by the Rome City Council. Once again, the architect Marcello Piacentini drew up the plans, radically altering the existing architectural style and designing the present facade, entrance and foyer.The Theater's legendary acoustics can still bear comparison with any other auditorium in the world. The present seating capacity is about 1,600, and the house was retrofitted with air-conditioning subsequent to a restoration, which provided improvements to the interior. The stucco work was completely restored, the great proscenium arch strengthened, and a parquet floor of solid oak blocks laid to replace the previous one.

The post-war period saw celebrated productions including Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro in 1964 and Verdi's Don Carlos in 1965, both conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini and directed by Luchino Visconti. On 2 January 1958 the Theater was the venue for a controversial performance of Norma starring Maria Callas that was given in the presence of The President of Italy. Due to vocal problems, Callas abandoned the performance at the end of the first act.

Since 2001, the musical director and chief conductor of the company is Gianluigi Gelmetti. He is scheduled to step down from these posts at the end of his contract in 2008.

Opera company's summer venue

The outdoor theatre at the Baths of Caracallamarker, with the Roman ruins as the backdrop, is the venue for the opera company's summertime presentations in Rome.

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