According to Michele Mariotti, music director of the Rome Opera, “Japan is like a second home” for Italy’s opera and classical music community.

While the art form is seen as a “part of Italy’s cultural DNA” in its home country, it also has an enthusiastic fan base in Japan. That is why the Rome Opera intentionally chose two of Italy’s greatest masterpieces for its first Japan tour in five years.

“You really can't exaggerate how much Japanese audiences respect and love opera and classical music in general,” Mariotti says to The Japan Times over video chat from Rome. “For us, every time (we perform in Japan) is a joy and a responsibility at the same time because Japanese people know very well what to expect. They love and know their opera very well. The knowledge is really very deep, and it's a pleasure to travel and perform in Japan.” Mariotti was last in Japan as recently as June to lead The Tokyo Symphony in two concerts.