The history of the shows of the Teatro Grande followed the general trend of historical Italian and European theaters over the centuries: from the end of the eighteenth century, performances were mainly grouped into 2 seasons, the Carnival season, which took place between December and February, and the Fair season, which took place instead between August and September in conjunction with the Brescian late summer fair. Only from 1912 then was the Spring season added. The inaugural opera presented at the Grande on December 26, 1810, was Il sacrificio di Efigenia by Giovanni Simone Mayr, maestro of Gaetano Donizetti.
From the end of the 19th century to the present, the most important operas in the Italian tradition have been staged on the Teatro Grande stage, but the most memorable remain La Bohème of 1896, conducted by Maestro Arturo Toscanini, and the 1963 opera with Zeani and debutant tenor Luciano Pavarotti (who had already been present the previous year for Rigoletto), as well as the 1950 opera season with Maria Callas in Aida.
In the course of its activity, the Teatro Grande has offered audiences, in addition to the Opera seasons, drama, dance and other performances featuring the most celebrated artists; in the second half of the 20th century, classical, jazz, and pop music concerts were also hosted. Since 2010, with the advent of the Fondazione del Teatro Grande di Brescia, programming has been expanded to include the various genres of live entertainment: multidisciplinarity and young people are key goals of the new management. The idea is that of an open theater that becomes a point of reference for the city and the territory, where different disciplines find space for different audiences, so that the theater is a living space for comparison.
In particular, the billboard of the Teatro Grande has seen the traditional Opera and Ballet Season, concert activities – divided into symphonic, chamber music, baroque and contemporary music, jazz and pop – and dance shows, in addition to special projects and cultural and children’s events. The programming has focused on the presence of artists and companies of international level, but also on the enhancement of young talents with the aim of making the Brescia area a national and international excellence.
The Opera proposal represents the pivotal element of the programming; the opera titles are mainly co-produced as part of Circuito OperaLombardia, the network created by the Teatro Grande in Brescia, the Teatro Sociale in Como, the Teatro Ponchielli in Cremona, the Teatro Fraschini in Pavia and the Fondazione Donizetti in Bergamo. The network also sees as partners the Pomeriggi Musicali orchestral ensemble – which regularly performs in the Circuit’s productions – the Teatro alla Scala and Regione Lombardia.
Also important are special projects such as La Festa dell’Opera, a unique event in Italy that received an Abbiati Prize from Italian music critics for its important educational value.