Not everyone thinks to attend an opera performance while in Florence. Most are so busy with the gelato they can’t be torn away to sit in a venue that doesn’t allow food. But failing to partake in this experience while visiting Italy is a grave oversight.
There is no shortage of great art in Florence. To your left you’ll see a Michelangelo and to your right, a Donatello. In a city so teeming with talent, even Leonardo gets put in the corner.
There are street artists who create same-day chalk masterpieces evoking Venus herself. Apartments at the Palazzo Pitti are so packed with art that the facility provides maps to help visitors navigate the walls.
In short, it’s hard to be considered the best of anything artistic in Florence. So it is with a full appreciation for the weight of the term that I say, without a doubt, the Opera at St. Mark’s Church is the best musical experience available in Florence, Italy.
Where is St. Mark’s Church?
Preliminarily, you should know that Florence is unique in that almost every monument, building and bridge is hundreds of years old. The city is the epitome of Italian charm and authenticity is the rule, not the exception. In the case of St. Mark’s Church, this holds doubly true.
Located just off the Arno River, a block from the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, St. Mark’s Church is an active place of worship during the day and one-of-a-kind concert venue at night.
Founded in 1881, the church is part of an old Medici palace that was once owned by Machiavelli and later renovated in the neo-Renaissance style. The church’s resident opera company supports several charities, including a children’s home in South India. They also serve Florence’s homeless population, serving more than 75,000 hot meals to those in need to date.
The venue seats 400 but averages an attendance of 150 people at weekly services, and it’s constructed in a way that you’ll feel you’re in an audience of 5.
What can I expect from an opera performance?
I had the pleasure of attending a performance of Love Duets at St. Mark’s Church on a Sunday evening. An email was sent to all guests instructing an arrival time of no later than 8:15pm, so naturally, I was there by 8pm. And naturally, I was the only one there. Europeans abide by a more relaxed timeline, which I could certainly get used to!
Guests started arriving some time around 8:20pm, giving me time to absorb my surroundings.The church boasts grand arches and a red diamond tiled floor that provides excellent acoustics. I sat in the front row for an extra 10 Euro on top of the already bargain price of 20 Euro for admission. As an added touch personal touch, my seat was reserved with a name card.
Is opera for me?
As soon as the baby grand piano in the middle of the room comes to life, I you get goosebumps. The pianist and singers, Franz and Ilse, make unknown lyrics in a foreign language seem familiar and comforting.
There is no moment where you stifle a yawn or pretend to enjoy the experience. There is no low point. Every song is carefully picked to leave you asking, where did the time go?
Even if you’re not an opera fan or are unsure if this is the scene for you, I encourage you to give it a try. You will recognize the melodies, appreciate the authenticity and kick yourself for not buying a ticket sooner.
I attended as a single female and throughly enjoyed myself. In fact, Franz even dedicated a special song to me after the intermission! It was “Granada” a lively tune about Spain and the women who reside there. I felt flattered and can honestly say it will go down as the most memorable serenading of my life!
Sometimes magic happens when you step out of your comfort zone, and in this case magic comes in the form of an opera in Florence.
Till next time, safe travels!
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