Music and Bologna – Theatres and Memories

This is the second of two posts on the rich musical culture of Bologna. In Music and Bologna Part 1 I talked about museums, concerts and art in churches. In this post I’ll cover a wide range of topics.

The Accademia Filarmonica or Philharmonic Academy was founded in 1666 and continues today as a prestigious music school. It’s also the home of the Orchestra Mozart which performs through the year at the Teatro Manzoni in Bologna.

teatro manzoni bologna
Teatro Manzoni before a concert

The Teatro Manzoni dates from 1933.  Their season  encompasses a wide range of musical genres. It’s also used for a variety of other concerts. Bob Dylan performed here a few years ago!

The main opera theatre of Bologna is the Teatro Comunale located on Piazza Verdi. It was completed in 1763 although it looks more recent from the outside as the façade wasn’t completed until 1936. It’s always been quite progressive being the first Italian theatre to stage many of Wagner’s operas and continues to premier newly written works.

'Teatro communale Bologna regina commercio 1909
A poster for an event in the theatre from 1909

There’s an extensive season of opera, concerts and ballet every year, which can be seen on the theatre’s site. You can book tickets via tiketek  or try your luck at the box office.

Teatro communale bologna
The ceiling of the Teatro Comunale

Several composers have close connections with Bologna. Gioachino Rossini moved there with his mother when he was a young boy.  His great early success in opera allowed him to build a very substantial house at 26 Via Maggiore in 1824, when he was just 32 years old. He lived there on and off until 1848 when he moved to Paris, probably due to the political instability and revolution in the Italian States at that time.

Gioacchino Rossini's house Bologna
Rossini’s house in Via Maggiore

Bologna was the birthplace of the composer Ottorino Respighi. The house where was born in Via Guido Reni  has a simple plaque recognizing this, his tomb can be seen at the Certosa Cemetery and there is a memorial in the foyer of the Teatro Comunale.

Respighi memorial Bologna
Respighi in the Teatro Comunale

Bologna had a town band for centuries supported by the Comune or City Council. The Comune recently celebrated its 9th century, tracing its origins to the year 1116.  The musical group was known by various names, including the Concertino Palatino, and was in existence from the 13th until the 18th centuries  performing at many important civic functions.

On the second floor of the Council chambers, known as the Palazzo d’Accursio, is the Sala Farnese. The walls are covered with a large scale fresco cycle depicting important moments of the city’s history. On the right is one showing the entrance of Pope Paul III to the city in 1543. To the right of the Pope’s head can be seen, unfortunately indistinctly,  the musicians of this group.

Palazzo farnese Bologna Concerto Palatino
The Concertino Palatino of Bologna

As well as paintings depicting musical themes as illustrated in the previous post, the churches of Bologna contain a wonderful patrimony in the form of ancient organs. Prominent amongst these are those in the  Basilica of San Petronio.

San petronio Petronius Bologna
The vast interior of San Petronio

The organ in the chapel choir of San Petronio  was built around 1470 by Lorenzo da Prato and is thought to be the oldest organ in the world still in use. Its air is supplied by a large manually operated bellows. The basilica has a second organ built in 1596 by Baldassarre Malamini,  also still in perfect working order.

San Petronio organ Lorenzo da orato Bologna
The Lorenzo da Prato organ was built in 1470

There are frequent organ concerts at various churches in the city. If you’re visiting, be sure to keep an eye out for notices on church doors and notice boards.

The basilica’s museum contains some beautiful large illuminated medieval choir books. Whilst visiting, don’t miss the fascinating meridian line described in a previous post, The Meridian Line of San Petronio.

Bologna is the home of the publishing company Ut Orpheus.  They have a thriving on-line business with a wide range of classical music, but it’s also interesting to visit and browse in their Via Marsala store .

Ut Orpheus Bologna
The Ut Orpheus store in Via Marsala
Ut Orpheus store Bologna
Inside the store

Bologna also has its own music publishing company, Tactus Records which has a range including music rarely found elsewhere.

Tactus Bonaventura Rubino
A world first recording by TACTUS

The jazz scene is very alive in Bologna and there is a Jazz Festival every year in autumn.

One of the most loved jazz musicians of Bologna was Lucio Dalla.A memorial to him can be seen on the wall of his house in Via d’Azeglio and his grave at the Certosa Cemetery is an interesting one.

Lucio Dallo house Bologna
Memorial to Lucio Dalla in Via d’Azeglio



Dalla grave Bologna Certosa
Lucio Dalla’s grave


The musical legacy of Bologna is so extensive that this post and the previous one have only been able to cover a selection of topics. If you have an interest on music, I hope they will enrich your visit to the city.

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