Italy chooses opera over coffee as candidate for UNESCO heritage recognition

There are many things close to an Italian’s heart - food, style, culture to name a few - but coffee and opera are right up there at the top of the list. That is why there was such a huge debate about whether Espresso or opera should be put forward to UNESCO to go on their list of intangible global heritage.

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It was a tough choice between these two facets of Italian culture, but the Italian National Committee for UNESCO decided that the art of opera singing should take precedence over that of Italy’s beloved 'caffè'. So, the art of espresso making will not, for the present, be on the list along with the Neapolitan pizza.

The Italian culture minister, Dario Franceschini said “With the candidacy of the Italian opera to the world's intangible heritage, Italy is aiming to get recognition for one of its most authentic and original cultural expressions,”

“Italian opera singing is an integral part of the world’s cultural patrimony, which provides light, strength and beauty in the darkest hours”.

Theatres and opera houses have been hit hard by the pandemic, so this comes as a much needed boost to the 30,000 people who work in the industry. Italy holds the world record for the number of opera houses in a country, boasting over 60 across the peninsular.

Opera as we know it was born in the 17th Century, beginning in Florence and radiating out over the next couple of centuries to the rest of Italy, with Naples being at the heart. Guiseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini are arguably the most well known of any composer of opera and their works are performed around the world.

The oldest opera house in the world is claimed to be the San Carlo theatre in Naples. Stephane Lissner, the French director of the House says, "Opera was born in Italy," Lissner explained. "Singing in Italian... inspires the greatest emotion in opera lovers." Lissner also claims that opera should not be for the elite and the ticket pricing which has meant exclusion to a lot of people, has been a mistake.

Unesco’s ruling on the bid for recognition of opera is due at the end of the year.

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