Teatro Massimo, the temple of Opera and the soul of Palermo

Read the incredible story of the biggest Opera theatre in Italy.

There is a place, a real treasure in the heart of the city, which by itself could tell the soul of Palermo.
Teatro Massimo is a temple of opera, an engineering masterpiece and an architectural gymnasium, but It also preserves a series of stories, anecdotes and tales. 

The project started when a mayor decided to launch a competition of ideas.
These were the golden years of the rise of the Florio family and the dynasties of Italian-British entrepreneurs who brought the Belle Époque to this area of Sicily, giving the city the nickname of “Palermo Felicissima” (which means super happy).

And it was in this atmosphere of grandeur that architect Giovan Battista Filippo Basile, in 1864, presented a design that scattered all others both in form (a wooden scale model) and in substance, given that in each of the four sections It is still possible today to appreciate details of astonishing precision.

But it took 9 years to get the work started in 1875, and other 22 years to listen to the first touch of the baton with the notes of Verdi's Falstaff which on May 16th, 1897 accompanied the official opening of the largest opera house in Italy (third in Europe for architectural magnitude after the Opéra National in Paris and the Vienna State Opera) with over 7,730 square meters of columns and capitals in neoclassical-eclectic style to protect a system of boxes and balconies and a ceiling that alone represents an engineering work capable of cooling like the most modern air conditioning systems. 
Palermo, however, paid a very high price - and not only in money - to greet his most representative work.

Three districts were literally razed to the ground together with two important monuments:  the church of the Stigmata and the monastery of San Giuliano, from which a legend has it that a nun materialized and still today would have the responsibility of sticks, slips and more generally of all the nefarious events that have characterized the history of the theatre.
In 1974 what was supposed to be a short restoration, brought the closure of the theatre up to 1997.
Twenty-three long years of silence only briefly interrupted in 1990, when the theatre became the set for some shots of the film "The Godfather - Part III" by Francis Ford Coppola, with Andy García, Sofia Coppola and Al Pacino in the role of the godfather, Michael Corleone, who goes to Palermo to attend his son's debut in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana.

The appointments

Today the Teatro Massimo has a full program of events, which in summer doubles up, involving the Verdura theatre as a location.

For opera or ballet lovers, there are many appointments on the calendar, as well as concerts and events open to a younger audience or with less classical tastes.

But for those who simply want to discover a piece of history in which one of the most beautiful and dramatic pages of Palermo is written, we also recommend a simple visit, including the stage and the roof. Or, if you want to delight yourself with a taste of the Belle Époque, at certain times of the year it is also possible to organize a visit with dinner or an aperitif in the royal box, also attending rehearsals or an exclusive event.

A way to relive the glories of an era in which Palermo was truly happy.


More Inspiration

Privacy Policy