The Rome Opera House Chorus and Orchestra are the permanent orchestral and choral groups of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, the state-subsidized main opera company of Rome.
As an imperial and religious capitol, Rome has always been a center of ceremonial and theatrical music. Rome was directly under the secular rule of the Pope so early opera was given in private theaters by aristocrats. The first fully sung theatrical work given in Rome was Amor pudico, by several composers, given by Cardinal Mantalto.
When Giulio Rospigliosi, a priest who often wrote opera librettos for the Barberini family's theater, became Pope as Clement IX, he gave exiled Queen Christina of Sweden permission to open Rome's public opera theater, the Teatro Tordinona. Its fate was emblematic of continued papal interference in opera: after being closed once and reopened, it was torn down on orders of a subsequent pope.
In 1730, another Clement (the XIIth) ordered the Tordinona rebuilt as the city's leading opera house, supported by the municipality. After the Tordinona burned down in 1781, the government did not put up a new theater until 1795, named the Apollo, which specialized in comic opera in 1828, when the city government decided to limit its grants to the funding of serious or grand opera only.
Three theaters, the Valle, the Argentina, and the Apollo dominated operatic life in Rome in the nineteenth century. The Apollo was the least innovative of the three theaters and gave few important premieres until, in 1878, it became the first Roman theater to give a Wagner opera (Lohengrin) and, in 1883, gave the entire Ring cycle in German.
By then, Rome was the capital of a united Italian Kingdom. The Valle now gave spoken drama only and the Argentina remained active in opera, but a new theater built by entrepreneur Domenico Costanzi in 1880 became the city's leading house. The aged Apollo was demolished in 1889.
The Apollo flourished under the direction of Enrico Costanzi. It was under Costanzi's rule that Puccini's Tosca was premiered there. After his death, the Stin company (which ran theaters in South America) bought it and put it under the direction of Walter Mocchi. In 1911, the city began giving the Costanzi a regular grant, and in 1926 bought, remodeled, and modernized it.
In 1928, the national government organized the Costanzi as an autonomous state-subsidized organization, and renamed it the Teatro Reale dell'Opera (Royal Opera House). It adopted a strong interest in new opera, giving premieres of works by Zandonai, Casella, Respighi, Malipiero, and several others. After the war, the "Reale" part of the theater's name was dropped (along with the Italian monarchy itself) and the theater continued to be the center of operatic life in the city. Its summer season of operas, held from 1937 to 1993 outdoors at the Baths of Caracolla, also became famous.
The Teatro dell'Opera di Roma (often still called the Teatro Costanzi) now ranks as one of the major opera theaters of Italy. It presents opera and concerts in addition to its operatic productions, which are presented in the traditional manner of one production at a time for several performances. Its season runs from November to June, when it gives around 40 performances of nine productions annually. At the turn of the century, Rome was building a new musical facility, the Auditorium, designed by Renzo Piano. The Rome opera company plans to move there under the leadership of its general director, who since 1998 has been conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli.