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10 Must-visit Opera Houses Around the World

Opera houses often make for the most iconic landmarks of the cities they are located in. This Buzzle article features ten of the most impressive opera houses around the world, which you shouldn't miss.
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Must-visit opera houses around the world
"An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I've left the opera house."
― Maria Callas
An opera house is often one of the most renowned landmarks of the city, and also its most prized gem. Apart from being the center of the city's performing arts scene, this imposing structure also represents the architectural genius of its builders, and also the city's grandeur with respect to power, wealth, and culture. If the city has an opera house, it surely is on the tourists' list of must-visit spots.

Exceptionally grand from the exterior and the interior, opera houses, many of which have been designed by some of the most illustrious and distinguished architects, are, and will continue to be, the most-loved and most-visited tourist attractions of the city they are located in. This Buzzle article brings you some of the most beautiful and grandest opera houses around the world, which will surely leave you with awestruck wonder. Scroll down for the list.

Amazon Theater


Amazon Theater

Location: Manaus, Brazil
Style(s) of Architecture: Renaissance
Architect(s): Celestial Sacardim
Seating capacity: 701

The Teatro Amazonas, as it is called in Portuguese, was inaugurated on December 31, 1896. It is currently home to the Amazonas Philharmonic Orchestra that holds regular concerts in the theater. It was built during the time of the Amazon rubber boom (1879-1912), when a lot of wealth was generated from rubber extraction in the Amazonian regions of Brazil and its adjoining countries. Antonio Jose Fernandes Júnior, the man who proposed the construction of the structure in the year 1881, stated that he wanted to build a "jewel" in the center of the Amazon rainforest.

Eventually, the construction began in 1884 for which, several materials were imported from other countries. The roofing tiles came from Alsace, France, the steel walls were brought from Glasgow, Scotland, and a special kind of marble for the statues, columns, and stairs was imported from Italy. Moreover, the interior furnishings were imported from France, while the chandeliers were from Italy. The ceilings have been embellished with several beautifully painted panels, and as many as 36,000, Brazilian national flag-colored ceramic tiles cover the dome.

First Performance: Amilcare Ponchielli's La Gioconda on January 7, 1897.

Royal Opera House


Royal Opera House

Location: London, England
Style(s) of Architecture: English Baroque
Architect(s): Edward Shepherd, Edward Middleton Barry, Jeremy Dixon, Edward Jones
Seating capacity: 2,256

The Royal Opera House in the City of Westminster, London, now commonly referred to as the Covent Garden is one of the most important performing arts venues in Central London. After it was constructed in 1732, it was destroyed twice, and the building that we see it today is the third structure that has been erected on the spot.

Claimed to be most modern theater facility in the whole of Europe, the current Royal Opera House boasts of a beautiful horseshoe-shaped auditorium, in keeping with tradition; a spacious rehearsal hall; educational facilities; and a huge place for public gathering (the Floral Hall). The latest renovation of the theater was completed in the year 1999, after which, it was reopened to the public. Currently, it houses the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet, and the Orchestra of the Royal House.

First Performance: William Congreve's The Way of the World on December 7, 1732.

Bolshoi Theater


Bolshoi Theater

Location: Moscow, Russia
Style(s) of Architecture: Neoclassical
Architect(s): Joseph Bové
Seating capacity: Originally 2,200, but only 800 now

Formerly known as the Imperial Bolshoi Theater of Moscow, this historic theater located in the Russian capital city was opened in the year 1825, under the patronage of the Russian Prince Pyotr Vasilyevich Urusov and English entrepreneur Michael Maddox. At the time, only two kinds of theaters were present in Imperial Russia―ones which hosted ballet and opera performances, and others which hosted plays. The former were called the Bolshoi (grand) theaters, because operas and ballets were regarded as nobler forms of drama, than plays. Moscow's Bolshoi theater has been home to the Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera, which are one of the world's oldest and the most acclaimed opera and ballet companies.

One of the most iconic landmarks of Moscow and Russia, the main building of the Bolshoi was renovated and reconstructed several times since its inception. The latest phase of renovation was completed in 2011, after which, it was reopened for the public in October of that year. One of the most frequented tourist spots in Moscow, it still hosts numerous international ballets, operas, and local concerts.

First Performance: Fernando Sor's ballet, Cendrillon on January 18, 1825.

Colón Theater


Colón Theater

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Style(s) of Architecture: Eclecticism
Architect(s): Francesco Tamburini
Seating capacity: 2,487

Acoustics-wise one of the five best concert venues in the world, the Colón theater, locally known as the Teatro Colón, was first inaugurated in the year 1857. Several concerts and operas were held in the theater during the 19th century, and records tell us that the top singers and opera companies of the time performed at the venue. Until the end of the 19th century, the Teatro Colón saw a very prosperous phase that included international recognition and success; however, by the end of the century, the theater's financial decline became apparent.

The Colón Theater that we see today is the second building that was built over the original one. The construction of this new building began in 1889, and was completed in 1908, thus, taking 20 years. The current theater was opened on May 25, 1908, and soon became one of the leading opera venues, rivaling some of the top ones including La Scala, Milan. From 2005 to 2010, the theater was once again closed down, and some major refurbishments were made. It was finally reopened on May 24, 2010.

First Performance: Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata on April 27, 1857.

La Scala


La Scala

Location: Milan, Italy
Style(s) of Architecture: Neoclassical
Architect(s): Giuseppe Piermarini, Mario Botta
Seating capacity: 2,800

Officially known as the Teatro alla Scala, this is one of the most renowned opera houses in the world. The original theater, inaugurated on August 3, 1778, was then named as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala. Since its opening, the theater has been a venue for performances by many of the greatest, internationally acclaimed operas, as well as concerts by some of the finest singers from around the globe. The theater gets its name from the church of Santa Maria alla Scala, over the location of which, it was initially erected. Initially, the theater was illuminated by means of 84 oil lamps; electric lights came only in the year 1883.

While the original structure had a seating capacity of more than 3,000, the same was reduced to the current one after its renovation in 1907. During WWII, the theater was destroyed and had to be rebuilt. Since then, the La Scala has undergone several renovations, the most recent ones being between the years 2002 and 2004. Currently, it is home to the La Scala Theater Chorus, the La Scala Theater Orchestra, and the La Scala Theater Ballet. Moreover, it also houses the (La Scala Theater Museum, that has displays relating to the opera house's history.

First Performance: Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta on August 3, 1778.

Semperoper


Semperoper

Location: Dresden, Germany
Style(s) of Architecture: Renaissance, Baroque
Architect(s): Gottfried Semper
Seating capacity: 1,323

Boasting of a long history of premieres, the Semperoper (which gets its name from its architect, Gottfried Semper) was originally opened on April 13, 1841 as the opera house for the Saxon State Opera and as a concert hall for the Saxon State Orchestra. At that time, the building was considered to be one of the most beautiful opera houses in the whole of Europe; however, it was destroyed by a fire in 1869, following which, the reconstruction was almost instantly undertaken, and the new building was completed in 1878. However, in 1945, owing to the bombing of Dresden in WWII, the theater was destroyed again, and the new building was erected exactly 40 years later.

The Semperoper has been hosting several world renowned operas right from its initial days, and is one of the favorite venues of many famous European artists. Despite the fact that it has had a troubled history that includes damage and destruction, this commanding opera house on the west bank of the Elbe river, is also known for its interiors as much as its exteriors. It boasts of gorgeous balcony fronts, a richly embellished staircase, a multitude of paintings and chandeliers, and an excellent acoustical quality matching that of La Scala, and second only to that of Colón Theater.

First Performance: Opera by Carl Maria von Weber on April 13, 1841.

Vienna State Opera


Vienna State Opera

Location: Vienna, Austria
Style(s) of Architecture: Renaissance Revival
Architect(s): August Sicard von Sicardsburg, Eduard van der Nüll, Erich Boltenstern
Seating capacity: 2,100

Located right in the center of the Austrian capital is the gorgeous mid-19th century opera house, originally named the Vienna Court Opera. It is now called the Vienna State Opera, and is also home to the opera company of the same name. One of the major landmarks of Vienna and Austria, this opera house was originally commissioned by the Viennese "city expansion fund", and was allegedly, the first major structure to have been erected on the Vienna Ringstraße (1861-69). A lot of expensive building material was procured from several parts of Austria to build this elegant structure, and as many as three masonry companies were employed to supply labor. The initial public response for the building was not as grand as expected, and the common Viennese of the time often compared it to "a sunken treasure chest".

In 1945, during WWII, the opera house was largely damaged, after which, there were series of discussions regarding whether it should be restored or completely reconstructed. Finally, it was rebuilt on its original location, and in 1955, it was reopened for the public. The Vienna State Opera celebrated its 140th anniversary in 2009, when a huge screen was installed on the exterior of the building for broadcasting some of the live performances, thus attracting several new audiences. Moreover, for several decades, the opera house has been a venue for the famous Vienna Opera Ball that is attended by the who's who of business and politics.

First Performance: Mozart's Don Giovanni on May 25, 1869.

Palais Garnier


Palais Garnier

Location: Paris, France
Style(s) of Architecture: Second Empire, Beaux-Arts
Architect(s): Charles Garnier
Seating capacity: 1,979

Historically renowned as Opéra de Paris, this exquisite opera house in Paris is undoubtedly one of the most frequented tourist spots in the city, and arguably, the most famous opera house in the world. Built to house the primary opera company of France, the Paris Opera, it gets its present name from that of its architect, Charles Garnier. While the opera house has been famous in France right from the beginning, it earned international repute after it formed the setting for the bestselling novel of Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera.

As part of the great reconstruction of Paris that was undertaken during the Second Empire (1852 - 1870), the Palais Garnier was the most expensive building at that time. Its construction took place between 1861 to 1875, and till today, there have been a series of restorations and renovations of the original structure. In 1969, new electrical facilities were added to the opera house, and in 1994, the modernization of stage machinery and restoration of the interior décor was undertaken. In 2011, the new L'Opéra Restaurant was opened behind the theater's east façade. Currently, the theater also houses the Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra de Paris (Paris Opera Library-Museum).

First Performance: Auber's La muette de Portici on January 5, 1875.

Sydney Opera House


Sydney Opera House

Location: Sydney, Australia
Style(s) of Architecture: Expressionist
Architect(s): Jørn Utzon
Seating capacity: 5,738

A relatively newer arts complex completed in the year 1973, the famous Sydney Opera House houses a performing arts center comprising multiple venues in a single building. One of the busiest performing arts centers in the world, it is known to host an average of 1,500 performances every year, which are attended by some 1.2 million people hailing from across the globe. Currently, it is home to some of the leading performing arts companies of Australia, including Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet, the Sydney Theatre Company, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Recognized as one of the most distinctive edifices of the 20th century, the Sydney Opera House was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List on June 28, 2007. Apart from being a venue for multiple indoor performances, the opera house's Forecourt, also makes for a great open-air, outdoor venue, with its monumental steps used as seating space. Within the building, there is also a recording studio, several cafés, restaurants, bars, and shops.

First Performance: Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 on October 20, 1973.

Metropolitan Opera House (Lincoln Center)


Metropolitan Opera House

Location: Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Style(s) of Architecture: Expressionist
Architect(s): Wallace Kirkman Harrison
Seating capacity: 3,800

Located on Broadway at Lincoln Square, Manhattan, and a part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, is the Metropolitan Opera House, a theater that opened on September 16, 1966. This opera house is currently home to the Metropolitan Opera Company, and is owned by the Metropolitan Opera Association. Apart from various live operas, the theater has also been a venue for numerous non-operatic performances since 1986, and in 1999 and 2001, it also hosted the MTV Video Music Awards.

The interiors of the Metropolitan Opera House are also as impressive as its exteriors. The main lobby of the theater features two marvelous murals created by the Russian-French artist Marc Chagall. According to sources, the current value of the murals is approximately USD 20 million. Its fan-shaped auditorium has five levels above the orchestra, and is elaborately decorated in gold and white. The theater also houses a number of sculptures by famous artists, and its tab curtain boasts of being the largest in the world.

First Performance: Giacomo Puccini's La Fanciulla del West on April 11, 1966.

These were just some of the awe-inspiring opera houses that exist around the world. Do make it a point to visit these (and others), and you will definitely taste the grandeur of the times in which these impressive architectural edifices were built. Try to catch a show in these mighty operas, but even if you do not manage to do so, we bet that their sheer sight will leave you mesmerized.
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Published: March 4, 2014
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Splendid work. - Robert [March 9, 2014]