A New Rock Opera About Emperor Nero Will Be Performed Atop His Villa's Ruins

shakko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
shakko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 / shakko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Ancient Roman Emperor Nero wasn’t one to play by the rules. Known for his brutal deeds (which include the execution of his own mother) and extravagant lifestyle, the emperor was notorious, and his reputation hasn’t gotten much better over the course of history. But soon, the over-the-top ruler will be getting a bit of an image makeover, with his very own biographical rock opera.

According to Variety, Divo Nerone will set out to show that Nero was misunderstood—a political figure caught up in tumultuous times—and will paint him as a “good soul gone bad.” The musical will be staged in an outdoor venue directly atop the underground ruins of the emperor’s actual residence, the Domus Aurea. With 36 songs and 28 scene changes, the rock opera promises to be just as over-the-top as its subject.

Nero famously built the Domus Aurea after the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE destroyed much of the city. Some Romans, at the time, believed the emperor had intentionally started the fire to clear land for his property. The musical will dramatize that fire, using special effects and smoke.

“The audience will be able to see a live representation of ancient Rome catching fire, with a realistic representation of the real setting of the time,” Cristian Casella told Variety.

The musical will feature lyrics by Franco Migliacci (who was the very first Song of the Year Grammy winner) and a score by Oscar-winner Luis Bacalov, as well as production design by Dante Ferretti (2011's Hugo, 2007's Sweeney Todd). It will open in Rome this June.

[h/t Variety]