Opera in Menorca
During the 1900s, demand for musical performances was rising among the upper classes of Mahon society. The 1829 construction of the Teatro Principal provided a huge boost for Menorca’s music scene, as the huge new venue – built in the style of eighteenth-century Italian opera houses – could accommodate the more elaborate productions arriving from the Continent.
Though the Teatro Principal is used for many different musical and theatrical purposes today, the opera tradition is alive and well. Each year, the theatre organises two weeks of musical galore – usually in June and December – with three performances each week. Previous weeks have featured The Barber of Seville, Carmen, and La Belle Hélène. The program for the summer 2016 will feature Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi.
Most of the opera during the Teatro Principal’s weeks is performed in the bel canto style, a musical term with which some may be unfamiliar. Bel canto refers to an Italian vocal style popular throughout Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Translated as “beautiful singing”, bel canto places heavy emphasis on smooth, legato phrasing; messa di voce (gradually crescendo and diminuendo while maintaining the same pitch); and vibrato (rapid but slight changes of pitch).
Though bel canto began to go out of style in the latter half of the nineteenth century, it enjoyed a revival beginning in the 1950s. Today, programmes like those at the Teatro Principal are keeping the bel canto tradition alive.
Where to See It
The Teatro Principal is located right in the heart of Mahon’s Old Town. If you’re holidaying in one of the popular beach resort towns on Menorca’s south-east coast (such as Son Bou or Punta Prima), Mahon is less than a half-hour drive away. Make a day of your opera outing and enjoy a boat tour of Mahon’s famous port, or a walk through the narrow streets lined with British imperial-era houses.