Teatro di San Carlo is the oldest working opera house in Europe and one of the most renowned attractions in Naples, Italy. It was commissioned by the Bourbon King Charles VII of Naples and was inaugurated in 1737. It would come to replace the Teatro San Bartolomeo, which was built in 1621. When it was finished, this was the biggest opera house anywhere, with the capability to seat 3,300 people. In order to produce a theatre of the caliber and prestige that Charles III wished to have, he commissioned two of the best architects of the time—Giovanni Antonio Medrano and Angelo Carasale—who designed a building that is both amazingly beautiful, but also has near perfect acoustics. The San Carlo Theatre in Naples is one of the most desirable places to see an operatic performance in all of Western Europe. Its distinction as the oldest theatre in Italy and the oldest operating theatre in all of Europe makes it an even more alluring destination.
The Teatro di San Carlo has hosted performances by the likes of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini over the years. It was largely destroyed by fire in 1816 and needed much rehabilitation. The direction of the refurbishment was lead by architect Antonio Niccolini, who brought the San Carlo Theatre in Naples to the shape we generally see it in today. The theatre opened again in 1818 to wonderful reception. Since the fire of 1816, and after the direct rehabilitation of Niccolini, the theatre underwent more work to carefully return it to its original design. The oldest theatre in Italy is to this day one of the most reputable theatres in Western Europe and certainly the best place to see a classical or operatic performance in the entire city of Naples, and arguably, southern Italy.
There are a couple of things you should know before attending a show at the San Carlo Theatre in Naples. Operas can last anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours so you will want to plan your return transportation to your hotel carefully. Be sure you have checked times if you are relying on public transportation, as some lines are not available after 10:30 p.m. Also, generally speaking, you will want to dress nicely for the shows at this theatre. You may be turned away for dressing too casually. For the opening nights of performances, men are expected to wear dark suits, and women, evening gowns. If you have a chance to visit Naples, do not miss the opportunity to at least tour the oldest theatre in Italy.
There are a variety of attractions adjacent to, and all around the Teatro di San Carlo. It is adjacent to the Royal Palace of Naples facing the colonnaded Piazza del Plebiscito. Other attractions in the area include of the Galleria Umberto, where you will find some of the best shopping in Naples, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, and the Santa Croce di Palazzo. You will also find a wide variety of restaurants, cafes, and quaint wine bars where you can enjoy a nice meal or a drink in between your schedule of sightseeing in the capital of the Campa
Image: liberalmind1012 (flickr)