La Scala, Milan
The Teatro alla Scala was founded, under the auspices of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, to replace the Royal Ducal Theatre, which was destroyed by fire on 26 February 1776 and had until then been the home of opera in Milan. The cost of building the new theatre was borne by the owners of the boxes at the Ducal, in exchange for possession of the land on which stood the church of Santa Maria alla Scala (hence the name) and for renewed ownership of their boxes. Designed by the great neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini, La Scala opened on 3 August 1778 with Antonio Salieri’s opera L’Europa riconosciuta, to a libretto by Mattia Verazi.
Palais Garnier, Paris
The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines, because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier, in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier.
The sweeping marble staircase is one of the most impressive features of the Opera Garnier and was inspired by Victor Louis’ Grand Theatre in Bordeaux.
Charles Garnier pioneered the use of mosaics as a decorative method in France and embellished the vaults leading up to the Grand Foyer fully with intricate patterns. Inlaid in the gold ground are the allegorical figures of Diana, Eurydice, Aurora and Psyche. Measuring an impressive 154m long, the foyer is bookended by two huge fireplaces, and not to mention the detailed fresco which stretches across the ceiling, painted by Paul Baudry in 1874. The bronze and crystal chandelier that hangs in the Opera House is one of the world’s most famous. Allegedly in the late 1890s, the counterweight of the chandelier broke and fell through the ceiling, resulting in the death of a member of the audience. Unfortunate as it was, it was drawn on for a scene in the Phantom of the Opera. Despite its slight obstruction of the view from the fourth level at the time, it has come to represent one of the most iconic features of the Garnier Opera House.
Metropolitan Opera House, New York
Colloquially known as The Met, the Metropolitan Opera House is located on Broadway at Lincoln Square in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City. Part of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the theater was designed by Wallace K. Harrison. It opened in 1966, replacing the original 1883 Metropolitan Opera House at Broadway and 39th St. With a seating capacity of 3,800, the current house is the home of the Metropolitan Opera Company, and presents Ballet in the summer months.
Known as the venue for the world’s greatest voices, the Met has been under the musical direction of James Levine since 1976. Maestro Levine is credited with having created one of opera’s finest orchestras and choruses.
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House (1957 – 1973) is a masterpiece of late modern architecture. It is admired internationally and proudly treasured by the people of Australia. It was created by a young architect who understood and recognised the potential provided by the site against the stunning backdrop of Sydney Harbour. Denmark’s Jørn Utzon gave Australia a challenging, graceful piece of urban sculpture in patterned tiles, glistening in the sunlight and invitingly aglow at night. Jorn Utzon died in Copenhagen in November 2008 aged 90.
The opera house is at the end of Bennelong Point, juxtaposed to the harbour and completely to scale in relation to the Harbour Bridge, the sandstone cliff face, Macquarie Street and Circular Quay. Viewed from a ferry, from the air, or by approach on foot, the vision is dramatic and unforgettable.
In its short lifetime, Sydney Opera House has earned a reputation as a world-class performing arts centre and become a symbol of both Sydney and the Australian nation.
Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
The imposing home of the internationally-famed Bolshoi ballet and opera was constructed in 1824 by Osip Bove, though the company itself was begun in 1773 as a dancing school for the Moscow Orphanage. For much of its history the Bolshoi was overshadowed by the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, but with Moscow’s restoration as the capital in 1918 it gained preeminence. For most of the last three decades the Bolshoi was led by Yuri Grigorovich, an artistic director known as much for his accomplished, classical choreography. Under Grigorovich’s tenure, and graced by the presence of a series of remarkably gifted dancers, the Bolshoi’s became known as one of the world’s great ballet companies.
The building itself is one of Moscow’s most symbolic sites, a truly impressive example of Russian classical architecture. 2002 saw the opening of a new stage, with state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment and a more intimate atmosphere akin to that of a Tsarist court theatre.
The Royal Opera House, London
Home to two of the world’s great artistic companies – The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet, performing with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House – the magnificent Royal Opera House, with its grand classical portico fronting Bow Street, is actually the third theatre built on the Covent Garden site. Both the previous theatres were destroyed by fire, a serious hazard in the era before electricity. Actor-manager John Rich built the first Theatre Royal, Covent Garden with the fortune he had made from the huge success of The Beggar’s Opera. At that time, under the terms of a Royal Patent, Covent Garden was only one of two theatres permitted to perform drama in the capital. The other patent theatre was the nearby Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and a keen rivalry soon developed between them.
Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires
The Teatro Colón in the city of Buenos Aires is regarded as one of the finest theatres in the world, renowned for its acoustics and the artistic value of its construction. Its current venue celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2008. Bounded by Cerrito Street, Viamonte Street, Tucumán Street and Libertad Street, in the heart of the city of Buenos Aires, it was inaugurated on May 25th 1908 with a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aïda. This venue replaced the original theatre, which operated between 1857 and 1888 in the block that now houses the offices of Banco Nación (Bank of the Argentine Nation), facing Plaza de Mayo.
The list of artists who have performed in this theatre has shaped its great musical tradition and world-renowned prestige. The list includes composers such as Richard Strauss, Arthur Honegger, Igor Stravinsky, Paul Hindemith, Camille Saint-Saëns, Manuel de Falla, Aaron Copland, Krzysztof Penderecki, Gian-Carlo Menotti, Héctor Panizza, Juan José Castro, Gerardo Gandini and Mauricio Kagel.
Teatro di San Carlo, Naples
Next to Plebiscito Square, one of the symbols of Naples, stands the shrine to Italian opera, whose foundation precedes the Scala theatre in Milan by 41 years and the Fenice theatre in Venice by 55 years. It was in 1737 that the first king of Bourbon, Charles III became the promoter of a project that combined magnificence with amazement and became a clear sign of his power: a theatre! It was the architect Giovanni Antonio Medrano, the Spanish colonel brigadier stationed in Naples, who was responsible for the design. The work was contracted to Angelo Carasale who completed the “real fabrica” in about eight months at a cost of over 75.000 ducats, according to contemporary accounts. Medrano’s design was of a hall of 28.6 x 22.5 mt, with 184 boxes distributed in six tiers and a Royal box for ten people, for a total amount of 1379 seats.
The opening evening of November, 4th, the sovereign’s name day, was celebrated with the performance of Achilles in Sciro by Pietro Metastasio, with music by Domenico Sarro and “two dances as an intermezzo” created by Grossatesta and scenes by Pietro Righini. At that time, women used to play the main character of operas, so Achilles was interpreted by Vittoria Tesi, called “La Moretta”, with the primadonna soprano Anna Peruzzi, called ‘la Parrucchierina‘ and the tenor Angelo Amorevoli.
The German Staatsoper, theatre in Vienna, Austria, that is one of the world’s leading opera houses, known especially for performances of works by Richard Wagner, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Richard Strauss. The original theatre, located on the Ringstrasse, was built in 1869 to house the expanded operations of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper), by which name it was originally known. Particularly famed during the conductorship of Hans Richter (artistic director 1880–96) were productions of Wagner’s cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. The directorship of the composer Gustav Mahler (1897–1907) was one of the artistic high points of the opera’s history. The structure of the opera house was planned by the Viennese architect August Sicard von Sicardsburg, while the inside was designed by interior decorator Eduard van der Nüll. It was also impacted by other major artists such as Moritz von Schwind, who painted the frescoes in the foyer, and the famous “Zauberflöten” (“Magic Flute”) series of frescoes on the veranda. Neither of the architects survived to see the opening of ‘their’ opera house: the sensitive van der Nüll committed suicide, and his friend Sicardsburg died of a stroke soon afterwards. On May 25, 1869, the opera house solemnly opened with Mozart’s Don Juan in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth.
Copenhagen Opera House
The Royal Danish Theatre has been located at Kongens Nytorv in Copenhagen since 1748, originally designated as the king’s theatre but with public access. The first edifice on the site was designed by court architect Nicolai Eigtved, who also masterminded Amalienborg Palace. In 1774, the old theatre seating 800 theatregoers was reconstructed by architect C.F. Harsdorff to accommodate a larger audience. King Frederik VI, who ascended the throne in 1808, is probably the monarch who most actively took part in the management of the Royal Danish Theatre, not as an arbiter of taste but as its supreme executive chef.
This was the theatre to which the 14-year-old fairytale storyteller Hans Christian Andersen devoted his early ambition. This was also the theatre that became the social and artistic focal point of the many brilliant artists of Denmark’s Golden Age. Today the theatre is the permanent home of the Royal Danish Opera and the Royal Danish Ballet.