Parma is considered to have the highest standard of living in Italy. It is the home to the famous parmigiano, the cheese of Italy. Parma has a highly developed artistic past because of the lengthy reigns of two particularly devoted patron families.
The Farnese family ruled from 1545 to 1727, promoting and protecting scholars of the arts and the humanities. And from 1816 to 1846 Marie Louise (called Maria Luigia by the Italians) of Austria, wife of Napoleon and Duchess of Parma, oversaw an enlightened administration of the city.
It was the same Maria Luigia who signed the passport allowing the young Giuseppe Verdi to leave the province (often referred to as "Verdi Country") to study in Milan.
Parma possesses the second oldest theatre in modern Italy, the Teatro Farnese (preceded in age only by the Teatro Olimpico at Vicenza, 1555). Ceded to the Farnese family in 1545 by Pope Paul III, Parma also boasts of the Teatro Ducale, designed by the architect Stefano Lolli and opened in 1688 and, until 1832, enjoyed a very high reputation among musicians. Today the site is occupied by the main Parma post office.
Teatro Regio di Parma, originally called Il Nuovo Teatro Ducale, was inaugurated on May 16, 1829. It was designed by Nicola Bettoli and modeled after Teatro alla Scala. It was the built by Marie Luigia, who, instead of accompanying her husband into exile, divorced Napoleon and settled in Parma.
Near the Oratorio di S. Maria delle Grazie, in one of the typical quarters of Oltretorrente, stands Arturo Toscanini's house, now the Toscanini Museum. Some of the tributes in the Toscanini Museum are very moving and attest to the extraordinary character of the man.
When we were there, the guide gave us a detailed tour, Then he led us to the top floor and played for us his favorite CD for about 30 minutes. I was thrilled and touched by his enthusiasm. That is indeed the way of life style in Parma, I thought: spontaneity, eros, and joy.
That night we experienced at Teatro Regio Paer's "Camilla". Paer was born in Parma.
"The reason for his success may perhaps be due to the fact that Paer, besides possessing an undeniable, and indeed quite remarkable flair for composition, is an extremely shrewd individual of great intelligence.. "
"Camilla owed part of its acceptance to the fashionable popularity of the spine-tingling 'gothic novels' of Mrs Radcliffe.."
"In Italy, the part of Camilla was always played by the composer's wife, who was a highly accomplished singer. She enjoyed an extraordinary run of success in the role which lasted for ten years."