Soaking in the Baths of Caracalla
By Chris Johnson
When in Rome….
Surely a visit to Italy has to include a night out at the opera?
After all, the Italians invented the opera. They know how to put one on.
At the end of the 16th century, the first opera Dafne was performed in Florence and the artform soon swept across the rest of Europe. Since then, however, opera has been “owned” by all of Italy.
So, in Rome for a couple of nights before venturing further across Italy, the opera seems like a “must-do” event.
Fortunately, the Italian Opera in Rome (Teatro dell’Opera di Roma) moves outdoors during the summer months to the spectacular Terme di Caracalla.
Terme di Caracalla, or (in English) the Baths of Caracalla, is a popular tourist attraction in Rome. During the day thousands flock to wander around what was once the second largest public bath house in the ancient city.
We are talking AD 212 to AD 530 – ish.
These spectacular ruins dominate the landscape where they are located and are worth exploring during daylight hours.
But at night, when the opera is on, it is a different world.
Famously in 1990, it was the venue for the very first Three Tenors concert.
The northern hemisphere summer this year, featured an impressive list of operas and concerts.
I got to see Georges Bizet’s Carmen and what a treat.
A beautiful summer’s night in the most tranquil of outdoor settings made this a highly memorable occasion.
With the imposing ruins as the backdrop, and used effectively for projections and props throughout the show, it was simply stunning.
The story of Carmen, the sensuous Spanish gypsy girl, is quite captivating and the opera’s singing and music outstanding.
I soon found that I was barely looking at the English words scrolling down an offstage screen.
I was absorbed in the theatre of it all and, even without reading the words, understood the whole narrative.
Venue information states that it holds 20,000 people. There was nowhere near that many people in attendance and it didn’t even look like it had that capacity. It seemed very intimate.
I couldn’t have chosen a better thing to do on my first night in Rome.
It was so good that I returned to the Baths of Caracalla the very next evening to see Icelandic singer Björk in concert.
The venue hosts selected pop shows too and the elfish Björk knows how to entertain.
It was a visually stunning concert and her voice is other-worldly.
Two nights enjoying the very best of music in the Baths of Caracalla can make you feel very clean.