Teatro Sociale di Como is a focal point for the cultural life of the area. It attracts opera fans in particular from a large triangle whose corners are formed by Varese, Lecco and Switzerland. Since 1 January 2002, the performances and all the opera house’s activities have been managed by AsLiCo (Opera Concert Association) of Milan, while the building is owned by the Gallery Ticket Holders’ Society.
Teatro Sociale was founded in 1813, the year Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner were born. It was built in an area known as the “place of ruins” because it was the site of the Castle of the Round Tower, dating from the second half of the thirteenth century. The project for the purchase of the area was promoted by Count Giampietro Porro, chairman of the committee for the new opera house and Podestà of Como. The design of the opera house was entrusted to the architect Giuseppe Cusi and construction commenced in 1811. The curtain went up for the first time on the evening of 28 August 1813, on Antonio Fonseca Portugal’s Adriano in Siria and Giuseppe Mosca’s I Pretendenti Delusi.
Sociale has been restored several times. In 1899, to celebrate the centenary of Alessandro Volta’s invention of the battery, the interior was cleaned and fitted with electrical lighting which allowed a better appreciation of its beauty. The opera house owns an antique stage curtain by Alessandro Sanquirico, the great set designer and painter of the first half of the nineteenth century, depicting the death of Pliny the Elder among his soldiers during the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. The opera house was restored several times under the guidance of engineer Mario Bernasconi, fully funded by the Gallery Ticket Holders’ Society. It reopened on 23 October 1988. The work continued with the laying of a new roof and the repair and painting of the entire building, which has now been restored to its original glory.
Following bomb damage in 1943, La Scala was temporarily relocated to Teatro Sociale. This joint venture brought the greatest performers of the period to Como. All the greatest singers and conductors, from Toscanini to Muti, have performed at the Teatro Sociale. It was an important venue: the greatest composers gave much importance to the opinion of the cultured Como public and frequently attended the performances of their operas. In November 1906, Mascagni conducted the second performance of Amica and police intervention was necessary to keep the crowd under control and oversee entry to the building.
Founded in Milan in 1949 by Cavaliere Giovanni Treccani degli Alfieri, AsLiCo (Opera Concert Association) was established with the aim of “paving the way for young students with sufficient natural talent for experimental theatre”. Having consolidated itself over the years, AsLiCo promotes numerous ventures and projects aimed at the training of young performers, offering them important opportunities for work and growth. In 2001 AsLiCo established its headquarters at the Teatro Sociale and started managing all the artistic activities of the historic Como opera house. These are funded by various authorities (Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, Region of Lombardy, Province and Municipality of Como) as well as the local and regional press. Many activities are scheduled during the year, ranging from opera to prose and including dance, musicals and concerts, without forgetting shows for children and families. The opera house has a programme for schools, devised for all levels, which involves approximately 5,000 students and 250 teachers in the city and province of Como.
Teatro Sociale di Como vaunts an extremely varied programme of top-level events. Classical and modern dance performances by international companies, symphonic concerts conducted by top names, Italian and international pop music concerts, and of course opera, all ensure that the Teatro Sociale is one of the attractions that make Lake Como a magnet for cultural tourism.