Why is the Maggio the Maggio?

Why is the Maggio the Maggio? Above all, because of its history, the history of a music theater company resulting from a festival, which was, in its turn, the result of a season of symphonic concerts. In the rest of Italy the twentieth century saw the gradual increase in symphonic offerings amidst its array of glorious opera performances: a country of the melodrama which was striving to become part of Europe without sacrificing its identity, creating separate seasons for concerts or inserting more and more concerts within the lyrical seasons.

Florence, however, followed a path in the opposite direction. It created a European institution in 1928 with an orchestra that, at the time, seemed to be simply a natural consequence of the growing international dimension of a city that for centuries had been devoted, like few others, to art and culture.

It was a courageously elitist decision for the time and resulted, in 1933, in the first Maggio Musicale Fiorentino presenting theater and music in the most European way, with a Festival – now the oldest in Europe after Salzburg. Starting with its orchestra, it emphasized the values of the grand international music culture while suggesting, at the same time, new directions regarding both its repertoire and its general vision of a performance, with melodrama present to an extent that was perhaps unprecedented in Italy.

A substantial continuity of concert and opera, overcoming the old differences between elitist concerts and popular opera, led to the foundation of a music theater company of which the Maggio is inspiration and symbol.
It is for this reason that even today Maggio is synonymous with proposal, innovation, internationality, and an interdisciplinary vision of music and performance, concerts and exhibitions, opera and seminars. In a word, living culture – and in the very city of monuments and museums, rich with a strong past that could so easily have conditioned Florence.

For decades the greatest names in music performance have appeared at the Maggio, in an ever-increasing connection between the festival itself and all the other activities that take place throughout the year in the historical theaters as well as in the new Teatro dell’Opera of Florence. In fact, over the years many of these illustrious names have established long and productive relations with the city and the Maggio. And today, as in the past, it’s not a question of a mere parade of famous people; each one of them has helped the Maggio audience, and, by extension almost everyone else, to achieve greater knowledge and understanding.

Daniele Spini

Musical critic

© All rights reserved