AsLiCo – the Oldest European Opera Contest in Italy

La Bella Italia and its Lyrical Patrimonium

AsLiCo - 70 years of promoting Young Opera Singers

Italy is known as the cradle of Opera and Lyrical singing. No wonder that it is famous for hosting so many important and known singing contests. The history of the Eurovision Song Contest, for example, began with an idea of Sergio Pugliese, of the Italian television RAI, and then later approved by Marcel Bezençon of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The contest was based on the Italian Sanremo Music Festival and was designed to test the limits of live television broadcast technology.

The first contest took place in Lugano on 24 May 1956, where seven nations participated. As the Contest progressed, the rules grew increasingly complex, and participation levels rose to pass forty nations at the end of the 20th century. As more countries came on board over subsequent decades and technology advanced, the EBU attempted to keep up with national and international trends.

The famous San Remo Singing Contest was born as the first Italian Singing Festival in 1948 at La Capannina, a historical local in Versilia, and the event inspired some years later Pier Bussetti, of the Sanremo Casino, who together with Giulio Razzi devised the competition that was held for the first time in Sanremo in 1951.

The oldest opera contest is based in Como and was founded in 1949 as As.Li.Co. (Associazione Lirica e Concertistica Italiana) by Senator Giovanni Treccani degli Alfieri on three fundamental principles:

1) To identify young, exceptional operatic talent;
2) To provide musical and theatrical training for these artists;
3) To produce operatic performances of the highest calibre in which to display these artists.


To this day, AsLiCo has remained staunchly committed to its mission and has led the way in pioneering new initiatives and increased opportunities for young singers. Below we listed some of the highlights of AsLiCo's history:

1949 December 31 - As.Li.Co. was established as a not-for-profit organisation.1950 In its first year, As.Li.Co. auditions hosted 326 young singers of which 29 were selected to participate in training and performance. Only singers from Italy were eligible.

1951 The young Carlo Bergonzi debuted as Riccardo in Un Ballo in Maschera and Don Alvara in La Forza del destino.

1957 - 1969 As.Li.Co. collaborates with The American Opera Auditions of Cincinnati. Young artists from both companies participated in an artist exchange: American singers perform in As.Li.Co. production while young European singers perform in Cincinnati.

1958 Mirella Freni debuted as Mimi in La Bohème.

1994 As.Li.Co.'s annual competition opened to all singers, citizens of European Union countries.

1997 Opera Domani is established in collaboration with the Regione Lombardia. This project provides interactive training of an opera to school-aged children and their teachers. Each year, the production associated with this project tours throughout Italy. Preparation and training are provided to students and teachers in all tour locations.

2001 After years of productions at various performance venues, As.Li.Co. makes a permanent home at Teatro Sociale di Como

Interesting Facts&Figures

  • In the first 20 years, at their annual competition for young singers, AsLiCo auditioned 2,734 young singers: 1,154 sopranos, 175 mezzo-sopranos, 791 tenors, 433 baritones, and 179 basses. Of these, 512 began their stage careers with As.Li.Co.
  • Between 1970 and 1999, AsLiCo produced 80 different operas, 7 sacred compositions, in particular oratorio and masses.
  • Carlo Bergonzi, Renata Scotto, Mirella Freni, Luis Alva, Katia Ricciarelli, Daniela Dessì, and many others all were young singers who began their stage careers with As.Li.Co.
  • Between 1950 and 1969, AsLiCo produced 119 operas with a total of 507 performances. During that period, the top 7 most produced operas were: La bohème - Cavalleria Rusticana - Madama Butterfly - Pagliacci - Barbiere di Siviglia - Rigoletto - La Traviata
  • As of the 2002 season, all AsLiCo productions are staged at Teatro Sociale di Como. This theatre, which was built in 1813, sits on the shores of Italy's renowned Lake Como.
  • Since its inception in 1997, over 10,000 teachers and 200,000 students aged 6-11 have participated in AsLiCo's premiere opera education project Opera Domani.
  • At the majority of AsLiCo productions, 60% of the house is sold either on subscription sales or single tickets.


Video creation © iClassical Academy media partner AsLiCo