Carmina Burana, Carl Orff
A performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, a strident cantata for orchestra, chorus and vocal soloists, at the wonderful Arena di Verona offers the chance to listen to one of the most famous pieces of twentieth century music at a superb venue. First performed in Frankfurt in 1937, this unique masterpiece was written to set the lyrics and poems of a 13th-century manuscript to music. Given the historic nature of the material, Verona's famous Roman amphitheatre is the ideal setting. It has been standing in the middle of the city since the first century AD and is now widely used for classical music and operatic productions. This concert experience also includes a little train tour which explores some of Verona's most notable sights and comes with a running commentary in multiple languages.
Orff was fascinated with the German manuscript known as Songs of Beuern, or Carmina Burana, that was discovered at the Bavarian monastery of Benediktbeuern in 1803. Unlike many other old texts that have survived into the modern age from the Middle Ages, this book contained many bawdy and rowdy lyrics. Orff took 24 verses from the text and set them to music drawn largely from his own imagination. Although some musical notation indicated the general theme of each piece, Orff was not restricted in his interpretations because no melodies survived, just the words. He therefore set about splitting his chosen verses into three sections, one focusing on springtime and youth, one focusing on tavern life and drinking while the third was devoted to courtship and romance.
Carmina Burana includes the most famous music of all of Orff's works, a choral song called 'O Fortuna'. It has been widely used in TV productions and films for decades. The thrilling nature of the music gives a clue as to how thematically strong it is, serving as a warning about the nature of fate, luck and fortune and the impacts they have on people.
Attending a concert of Carmina Burana at the Arena di Verona means accessing the beautiful Piazza Brà which is dominated by the venue on one side. From here, the little train tour sets off offering about a 25-minute tour before returning. Among the many sites the tour passes by is Castelvecchio, the almost fairytale-like medieval castle built by the noble Della Scala family. The tour also takes in ancient Roman monuments, such as the Gavi Arch, and the main city gates, known as Porta Borsari, while covering both banks of the Adige River. Even better, you can combine your tour with the concert on the same day or take it one day either side, as preferred. With such powerful music and a fun, informative tour, this experience offers something for everyone.