The Teatro Massimo Bellini opera house in Catania is named after 19th century composer Vincenzo Bellini, who was born in the Sicilian city and nicknamed the “cigno catanese” (Catanian swan). Bellini was famed for his bel canto compositions and his masterpiece ‘Norma’ in particular. He is remembered on the island every time someone tucks into the aubergine-based pasta dish named “Norma” in his honour, and it was ‘Norma’ that inaugurated the theatre when it opened in 1890. The theatre also commemorates Bellini with a statue in the foyer and a fresco cycle in the auditorium depicts scenes from four of his operas.
Architecturally, the building is a magnificent example of the twists, turns and curves of Sicilian Baroque. The interior, with its swathes of red velvet seating and opulent decorations, is worth seeing. Guided tours to the theatre in various languages are available at a cost of €6 from 9.30am to 12am, Tuesday to Saturday.
The theatre stages operas, concerts and recitals. It seats 1,200 yet, despite its modest size, it has attracted big names such as film directors Franco Zeffirelli and Werner Herzog to stage productions. Most performances sell out and it is advisable to book in advance to guarantee the chance of a seat. During the summer, the theatre mounts performances in the adjoining square and being able to watch such a spectacle in an intimate atmosphere on a balmy night is quite magical.
Where: Teatro Massimo Bellini, Via Giuseppe Perrotta 12, 95131 Catania, Sicily