Giovanni Zenatello: the birth of the Opera Festival

Hotel Accademia is located in the Palazzo Sambonifacio Tedeschi, a project of architect Adriano Cristofali dating back to 1750. The palazzo is still owned by Family Zenatello, whose most famous ancestor was Giovanni Zenatello, the world-renowned tenor of the end of 20th century, who launched and sponsored the Arena Opera Festival.

The Opera Festival commenced in 1913 due to the initiative of the Veronese Opera tenor Giovanni Zenatello in celebration of the centenary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi. For the first time a staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida took place in the city’s Arena, which soon became the biggest open-air opera theatre in the world. It was an event of historical significance, a great success, a veritable cultural revolution. The triumph of this bold experiment gave birth to a tradition that continues to this day. The opera has been performed in the Arena every year since then, exception made only for the years of the two world wars.

His career forced tenor Giovanni Zenatello to live far from his beloved Verona. He settled in New York where, in his famous singing school in front of Central Park, he discovered some opera talents, including the famous Lily Pons, the great Nino Martini, his fellow citizen, and the immense Maria Callas. The Diva has lived for a long time at Hotel Accademia in Verona, in a De Luxe room, which still exists and is still furnished as it was then. Giovanni Zenatello lived mainly in New York, but the Zenatello family remained in Verona to run the Hotel Accademia.

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