Opening "Opera di Firenze", Florence
A new home for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
In good time for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino festival, the new Florence opera house has been completed. The grand opening will take place on May 10, 2014, with a festive opera and ballet gala event directed by maestro Zubin Mehta.
The new "Opera di Firenze", as this outstanding cultural complex is officially called, will be the home to the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino now moving out of the Teatro Comunale into the new building. The Maggio Musicale Fiorentino also hosts the oldest Italian music festival of the same name where many famous singers and conductors like Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan made their appearance. Composers like Richard Strauss, Paul Hindemith, Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky even gave performances of their own works at the Maggio Musicale festival. The new building accommodates an audience of 5,000 in three areas where events can be held simultaneously: the opera hall seats 1,800, the still to be completed concert hall seats 1,000, and the so-called "cavea", a rooftop open-air auditorium above the opera hall seats 2,200. Since the preliminary inauguration in December 2011, experts have been enthusiastic about the acoustics in the Florence opera hall. Behind an acoustically transparent metal mesh in front of the walls, there are acoustically effective elements and structured surfaces like sound-scattering elements and various reflector panels directing sound reflections to the audience. Thus, the audience enjoys the visible impression of a traditional, horseshoe-shaped auditorium while the sound is directed by the acoustically advantageous shoebox shape.
Flexible and innovative: the orchestra pit and stage
Since 2012, the opera hall has been used for concert performances. In the meantime, the orchestra pit as well as the stage machinery have been completed. Now, the opera hall has a fully functioning stage equipment with movable bridge towers, a lighting bridge as well as numerous truss and point hoists for suspending scenery elements. Three individually height-adjustable podia are installed in the orchestra pit and make it possible to balance and adjust the acoustics between vocal soloists on stage and the orchestra. Large orchestras will for example be arranged lower in the pit in order to reduce their loudness for the benefit of the singers. By using either two or three podia, the orchestra pit size varies between 105 m² and 145 m². Maestro Mehta, his vocal soloists and choir singers love their opera hall and appreciate its acoustics. They are using their gala event rehearsals to play with the possibilities of this new "acoustical instrument". "It feels like being embraced by sound", said maestro Mehta enthusiastically in 2011. For symphonic concerts, a new mobile orchestra shell is available which can be mounted or demounted within a couple of hours only. This way, the opera hall continues to be a perfect venue for concert performances with an audience of up to 2,000.
Variable and adjustable: the rehearsal rooms
The rehearsal rooms also are adjustable since the acoustics of the different rooms with volumes ranging from 150 m³ to 3,200 m³ can be customized. By means of curtains and acoustic banners in front of the wood-clad walls, the artists can adjust the sound absorption to their individual requirements and thus change the reverberation times and reflection patterns.
Perfect sound for musicians, vocal soloists and the audience
When on May 10, 2014, the music of Verdi, Ravel and Puccini will be performed in the new opera hall, a distinguished audience will be present since the new opera house building was a project close to the heart of the former Florence mayor and current prime minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi. Italian president Giorgio Napolitano is expected to attend the gala event as well, and after various cuts and adjustments, the funding of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino now is secure for years to come. The new Florence opera house with its avant-garde architectural design and its large dimensions now also unfolds its brilliant acoustics for opera performances – this first-rate experience of sound being the achievement of the acoustical consultants of Müller-BBM based in Planegg near Munich.