July in Rome is an endless performance marathon, a non-stop succession of one internationally acclaimed artist after another, presenting genres as diverse as heavy metal, ballet, fusion jazz, opera, modern dance, classic rock, chamber music, folk, salsa, and many more. It’s called Estate Romana (Roman Summer) and it sees the city’s biggest performance festivals converge on Rome to offer residents and lucky visitors the chance to see some of the greatest performers alive today, often in ancient sites with stunning backdrops, from the Baths of Caracalla to the Circus Maximus to Villa Adriana. The only challenge is deciding which artist is at the top of your list. So check out our recommendations, make some hard choices, and get ready for a marvelous month of music and dance.
Rome’s premier performing arts center, Auditorium Parco della Musica (Viale de Coubertin, 30), hosts the city’s most important summer music festival and the name says it all: Luglio Suona Bene (July Sounds Good). The open-air amphitheater or “cavea” where most of the concerts take place makes each performance even more enjoyable. The event kicks off on the first of the month with a performance by Jeff Beck, one of the most influential rock guitarists of the ‘60s and ‘70s. His lifetime of work has shaped the history of modern guitar, and he has also experimented with a broad spectrum of genres, including blues, rock, heavy metal, hard rock, and fusion.
On 3 July, Canadian-American artist Rufus Wainwright takes the stage, performing hits from his new album, Vibrate: The Best Of, a collection of the most significant songs of his career. One of the most innovative songwriters of his generation, Wainwright approaches pop with sharpness and wit, reshaping it according to the distinct voice of each song, with such a learned and original style that Elton John called him “the greatest songwriter on the planet.”
British band Massive Attack returns to the bel paese on 8 July, four years after their last Italian tour. This charismatic band invented the ‘90s genre Trip Hop, a blend of electronic, jazz, hip hop, house, and psychedelic rock; a unique sound that has since influenced numerous bands on the international electronic scene. More than a band, Massive Attack can be defined as a musical collective, a group of artists who are constantly open to new and exciting collaborations with other musicians.
On the 10th of the month, the unmistakable voice of Israeli singer-songwriter Asaf Avidan will grace the PDM stage. After earning worldwide success for his latest album Different Pulses, Avidan is appearing around Italy and the world with his new Back to Basics Tour. His music encapsulates the flavors of blues, folk, and rock, and his deep, captivating voice contrasts sharply with his stark visual image, creating a unique and unforgettable persona.
Next up on the 11th is Keith Jarrett, a man whose name is synonymous with jazz. Over his long career, the legendary jazz pianist has performed with some the greatest musicians ever to walk the earth, from Miles Davis to Chick Corea, Dewie Redman, and Ron McClure. For the past three years, Jarrett has performed as part of the PDM’s July Sounds Good music festival with his trio, The Standards, but this is first time in a decade that Rome will see him take to the stage alone. Don’t miss this chance to see one of the greatest living jazz icons.
The 12th of July brings Robert Plant to the Auditorium stage. Voted the “greatest lead singer of all time” by the readers of Rolling Stone in a 2011 survey, the British singer and instrumentalist joined Led Zeppelin in 1968 and contributed significantly to the emergence of the genres of hard rock and heavy metal, as well as to the success of the band. Plant embarked on a solo career in 1980, expanding many of the themes he touched upon during his time with Led Zeppelin, and experimenting with blues, folk, Celtic, and Arabic music. He will be accompanied by the Sensational Shape-Shifters.
One of the PDM’s regular summer guests, the Buena Vista Social Club Orchestra, will be welcomed back for the last time on 17 July as part of their farewell tour of Europe. Conductor and trombonist Jesus Aguaje Ramos leads several original members of the group, including solo vocalist Omara Portuondo, guitarist Eliades Ochoa, trumpeter Guajiro Mirabal, and virtuoso lute player Barbarito Torres, as well as young, up-and-coming Cuban musicians. Don’t miss this final opportunity to be carried away by their irresistible Cuban rhythms and melodies.
English singer-songwriter James Blunt performs on 21 July as part of his Moon Landing 2014 World Tour. See him perform his newest single Bonfire from his latest album, Moon Landing, as well as his breakthrough song You’re Beautiful. Blunt is followed by Yann Tiersen on the 22nd. Hailing from Brittany, France, Tiersen is perhaps best known for his soundtrack to the 2001 film Amélie, which earned him a César Award for Best Music Written for a Film. He will perform tracks from his most recent album, ∞ (Infinity), which was composed and partially recorded in Iceland (and in Icelandic), as well as hits from Dust Lane and Skyline.
On 23 July, American indie rock band The National is back after last year’s sold-out concert on the Rome stage. The quintet, led by vocalist Matt Berninger, will perform hits from their sixth and latest album Trouble Will Find Me, a collection of their most daring songs of their 14-year career. The album earned a Grammy Nomination for Best Alternative Album this year. Their music, which can also fit into the genres of post-punk revival, indie folk, and chamber pop, has been compared to that of Leonard Cohen, Grace Paley, Nick Cave, John Ashbery, and Tom Waits.
The Scottish post-rock band Mogwai lights up the night on 25 July, presenting their newest album Rave Tapes, as well as their most popular songs from past albums. Formed in the mid-90s, Mogwai helped to make their native Glasgow one of the capitals of the European music scene, and their sound has been influenced by the music of Fugazi, MC5, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Pixies, The Cure, and post-rock pioneers Slint. Join Stuart Braithwaite, John Cummings, Barry Burns, Dominic Aitchison, and Martin Bulloch for a high-energy night of rock.
One of the most anticipated events of the calendar will see Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, two indisputable superstars of the jazz world, share the stage on 26 July. Pianist Hancock and saxophonist Shorter’s paths have crossed several times over the course of their long careers, since they first became members of the Miles Davis Quintet in the 1960s. Over the years they have performed together around the world in projects that have shaped the history of jazz. After decades of continuous work, and several Grammy Awards, Hancock and Shorter give no sign of slowing down.
On the 27th, Simple Minds will perform the greatest hits of their 35-year career. The Scottish rock band has an unmistakable sound that lives somewhere between avant-garde, art-rock, pop, and ambient. The band was first formed in the late ‘70s and exploded onto the international rock scene in the ‘80s. In addition to their best-loved hits such as Don’t You Forget (About Me), Alive & Kicking, Belfast Child, Love Song, New Gold Dream, Waterfront, and Sanctify Yourself, the band will also perform Blood Diamonds and Broken Glass Park, two previously unreleased tracks that were completed specifically for this tour.
If you think that rock, jazz, and pop are the only genres you’ll have to choose from during Rome’s music month, think again. Classical music lovers are in for a treat this month too. The Festival of Nations, an international concert series organized by the Rome Philharmonic Academy, brings diverse classical musicians together from a number of countries around the globe. Featured this month are Malta, Norway, and Austria. On 1 July, representing Malta, pianist Gabi Sultana plays the bold works of contemporary composers American George Crumb, Ukrainians Efrem Podgaits and Myroslav Skoryk, and Sultana’s compatriot Charles Camilleri. Later that night, the Imago Sonora Ensemble, a chamber ensemble made up of 13 young Italian musicians and directed by Andrea Ceraso, interprets works by important composer across Europe: Hugo Wolf from Austria, Thomas Adès from England, Jörg Widmann from Germany, Francesco Antonioni from Italy, and Louis Andriessen from the Netherlands. On the 3rd, Norway is the star of the show. Italo-Norwegian lied singer Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz and Norwegian pianist Erling Ragnar Eriksen lead an art song masterclass followed by a recital by the participating students. The 4th of the month presents two concerts highlighting young musicians from Austria. Hear works by Berg, Schubert, Krenek, and Brahms, each inspired by a different work by Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, and interpreted by mezzosoprano Veronika Dünser, baritone Florian Pejrimovsky, pianist Eva Mark-Muehler, and actor Pietro Faella. All concerts take place at Sala Casella (Via Flaminia, 118) or in its attached garden.
The world-renowned Santa Cecilia Academy Orchestra gets into the summer action too with a Tchaikovsky festival at the Auditorium Parco della Musica (Viale de Coubertin, 30). On three consecutive Thursday nights in July, the orchestra, under the batons of Alexander Sladkovsky and Gaetano d’Espinosa, perform some of the great Russian composer’s best-loved works. Hear the soundtracks to some of the world’s best-loved ballets such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty, as well as other dazzling orchestral works. Edoardo Zosi interprets the Violin Concerto on the 3rd, and Giuseppe Andaloro is the soloist for one of the most famous piano concertos of all time, Tchaikovsky’s first, on 10July. On 24 July, Oscar-winning film composer Ennio Morricone will lead the Santa Cecilia orchestra and soprano Susanna Rigacci in a performance of his works, both new and old. The earlier pieces on the bill come from classic films of the ‘60s and ‘70s including H2S, Le Clan des Siciliens, Metti una Sera a Cena, and Maddalena, whereas Meditazione Orale, and excerpts from the scores of the epic religious film The Bible: In the Beginning and the 2013 film The Best Offer will be performed for the first time in Rome.
Performance enthusiasts who don’t want to sacrifice a minute of the warm, breezy July nights will be able to have their cake and eat it too. The summer season of the prestigious Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Rome’s official opera company, moves from their traditional indoor venue to the evocative site of the ancient Baths of Caracalla (Via delle Terme di Caracalla). The towering ruins make a dramatic backdrop for the sumptuous music of some of history’s greatest composers. Puccini’s La Bohème, one of the most romantic operas of all time, tops the bill this month, opening on 14 July. Puccini’s soaring arias and ensemble pieces will transport you to 19th-century Paris, where you can peek into the lives of four bohemian artists living in a ramshackle garret, and witness the love of Rodolfo and Mimì, one that is destined to end in tragedy. Rossini’s timeless classic The Barber of Seville, beginning 23 July, provides for a more light-hearted option. A prequel to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (although written nearly a century later), this crowd-pleasing opera strikes a perfect balance between opera buffo and bel canto, and contains two of the most popular and recognizable arias in the entire opera canon, Largo al Factotum and Una Voce Poco Fa. The opera company’s ballet corps will take to the Caracalla stage beginning 3 July, with the much-loved traditional version of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The classic story of good versus evil, light versus dark, is reflected by the contrast of the starry midnight sky and the snowy white costumes of the corps of swans. Lovers of classical dance should circle 25 July in red. The newest superstar on the international ballet scene, Roberto Bolle, will captivate audiences with his combination of technical mastery and superb artistry.
The ruins of Emperor Hadrian’s sprawling villa are the venue for the International Villa Adriana Festival, where contemporary music and dance juxtapose dramatically with the ancient setting. Accompanied by the PMCE Parco della Musica Contemporary Ensemble, acclaimed German chanteuse Ute Lemper performs Songs of the Short Century (1914–1991) on the first of the month. On the 3rd, witness Dialogue with Rothko, the great American choreographer Carolyn Carlson’s solo dance piece based on her tribute to the Abstract Expressionist painter, Mark Rothko. The original music of Jean-Paul Dessy and Carlson’s vibrant choreography and poetry, come together to reveal the nature of the artist and his art. Members of the Nederlands Dans Theater 2, a launching pad for exceptional young contemporary dancers, take to the stage on 10 and 11 July performing I New Then by Johan Inger, Shutters Shut & Subject to Change by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot, and Cacti by Alexander Ekman.
For another opportunity to combine great music with a spectacular setting, head to the glorious courtyard of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza church (Corso del Rinascimento) where the orchestra and soloists of the International Chamber Ensemble will perform from 5 July with Borromini’s exquisite spiral spire as a backdrop. Maestro Francesco Carotenuto conducts a series of diverse concerts featuring music by Piazzolla, Mozart, the Beatles, Vivaldi, and many more. During special performances on 19 and 22 July, audience members will have the rare chance to vote for the pieces they’d like to hear from a nearly endless repertoire of show tunes, cinema hits, and other unforgettable pieces of the last century.
Nearly every night of the month will see piano, chamber music, and voice recitals in the shadow of the towering 1st-century BC Theater of Marcellus (Via del Teatro di Marcello). The concerts, organized by Concerti del Tempietto, feature works by classical music’s greatest composers, including Scarlatti, Rossini, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, Massenet, Schubert, Liszt, Mozart, Satie, Debussy, Mascagni, Verdi and many more. Other outdoor concert festivals that liven up the night take place in some of the city’s lush parks, including Villa Ada, Villa Torlonia, and Villa Celimontana. For a complete list of performances, visit www.estateromana.comune.roma.it.
For the biggest names in hard rock, plus a few up-and-coming ones, your best bet is a night at the Ippodromo Capannelle (Via Appia Nuova, 1255), a historic racetrack just outside of town that hosts heaving rock concerts all summer long. Visit www.postepayrockinroma.com for more details.
Alice in Chains plus Metallica – 1 July
The Black Keys – 8 July
The Lumineers plus The Passengers – 16 July
Paolo Nutini – 19 July
Editors – 21 July
Caparezza – 22 July
Placebo – 24 July
Bastille – 26 July
Afterhours – 28 July