The full name of Palermo’s opera house is the Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele, named after the king of Italy, crowned in 1861. Designed on a monumental scale, it combines elements of Greek and Roman architecture with a strongly Sicilian identity, achieved through the use of yellow sandstone.

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Front of the Teatro Massimo with lion statue

The entrance lies at the top of a broad staircase flanked on either side by a large bronze lion. The lion on the left, when facing the entrance, is by Mario Rutelli and represents lyric opera. The one on the right, by Benedetto Civiletti, represents tragedy. At the top of the stairs are six columns supporting a heavy pediment in the classical style. When it was built, the richly decorated auditorium contained seating for 3,200, making it the third-largest opera house in Europe after Paris and Vienna. Due to modern regulations, it now has seating for 1,350.

Today the Massimo puts on lively productions from the international operatic repertoire featuring young Italian singers. There are programmes of ballets and concerts and regular tours of the opera house for visitors. Bookings can be made online, see under Links.