Opera houses are not just venues to enjoy cultural performances but a place to marvel at the architecture of the building. It often reflects the history and traditions of a city.
Opera has been a part of the western classical music tradition since the end of the sixteenth hundreds. Started in Florence, Italy in 1598, its popularity spread to Germany, France, England, and throughout Europe by the seventeenth century. Opera is a performance usually held in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or a small music ensemble.
We have listed 11 of the world’s most unique opera houses that you can check out. Before we begin, let’s define what opera is. According to Lumen Learning, it is an art form:
In which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text (libretto) and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes, and sometimes includes dance.
The most famous opera is Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze Di Figaro). To help you understand better, here is a UCTV‘s Marriage of Figaro performance given by the University of California, Santa Barbara:
1.Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Odessa, Ukraine
The current Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet was designed by Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer and completed in 1887. The original, opened in 1810, was destroyed by fire in 1873.
This magnificent Viennese baroque-style opera house is decorated in the late French rococo-style, the styles of 16th to18th centuries Europe. Besides western European elements, Odessa opera house also displays important Russian/Soviet artists like Mikhail Glinka, Nikolai Gogol, Alexander Griboyedov, and Alexander Pushkin.
2. Royal Opera House, London
Rebuilt in 1858 after a devastating fire, Royal Opera House is a historic landmark and major venue for the performing arts in London. Located in Covent Garden, an old part of London, now a cobbled shopping and dining destination, the Royal Opera House is the third theater to be constructed in the same venue.
A detailed history of the opera house throughout the years is available at Arthur Lloyd’s The Music Hall and Theatre History Site.
3. Sydney Opera House, Sydney
Construction started on March 2, 1959, and the Sydney Opera House was opened on October 20, 1973, by Queen Elizabeth II. Since then, the world’s greatest and best performers and artists have graced the stage in this magnificent opera house.
Sydney Opera House is a symbol of Australia, a masterpiece of modern architecture with the shiny white sail-shaped roof structure, is located by Bennelong Point, east of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
4. Palais Garnier, Paris
Palais Garnier or Opera Garnier is the most famous opera house in Paris since 1875. This 19th-century architectural masterpiece was the brainchild of Charles Garnier, a French architect of Beaux-Arts style.
The museum-like opera house is filled with paintings and sculptures, and one of the top features of the main auditorium is the ceiling painted by Chagall.
5. Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
The legendary Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow was founded by Catherine the Great in 1776, but fire gutted it, and it was rebuilt in 1825 only to be destroyed by two more devastating fires in the 19th century. During the Soviet-era,9i Bolshoi Theatre was the stage where top Russian ballet dancers like Galina Ulanova and Maya Plisetskaya performed.
Bolshoi Theatre underwent six years of extensive renovation from 2005 to 2011 and restored to its past glory – pre-Soviet opulence with gilded moldings and original 19th-century acoustic.
6. Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Since 1778, Milan’s Teatro Alla Scala has been the city’s premier venue for Milanese life and the performing arts. Teatro Alla Scala was named after the demolished church at the site, the 15th-century Santa Maria all Scala church.
It is located close to Piazza del Duomo and has a museum and library inside the theatre. The museum features memorabilia of the original music scores, paintings, sculptures, and a section dedicated to Verdi, one of Italy’s greatest composers.
7. Vienna State Opera
The magnificent Vienna State Opera or Wien Staatsoper opened its door on May 25, 1869, to the sounds of Mozart’s Don Juan and has been the host of many top performances in Vienna. However, the war between 1938 to 1945 disrupted and significantly destroyed the building. It was restored and reopened in 1955.
Vienna State Opera is designed in the Neo-renaissance style. The foyer, grand staircase, staterooms, and auditorium are adorned with spectacular fixtures, and fittings fit for a magnificent palace as you can see from this video from Vienna Tourism Board’s site:
8. The National Theatre and Opera House in Iasi, Romania
Built by Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer, the same architects that built Odessa’s opera house, the National Theatre and Opera House in Iasi was the first theater built in Romania.
This 19th-century building has Venetian crystals, opulent stairs, and marbled floors that are on par with some of the top opera houses in western Europe.
9. Teatro Colon Buenos Aires
Teatro Colon, located in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires was built in the late 1800s and completed in 1908. This Argentinian landmark theater is a premier venue for opera, ballet, and classical music performances in Argentina’s capital.
Designed by Italian born architect Francesco Tamburini and completed by Belgian-born architect Julio Dormal, the eclectic architecture of Teatro Colon has a mish-mash of Italian, German and French styles in its interior decor and exterior facade.
10. Teatro Solis, Montevideo, Uruguay
Teatro Solis, a cultural hub and venue for the performing arts in Montevideo has been one of Uruguay’s most treasured landmarks since 1856. Located in Plaza Independencia, Montevideo’s main square, Teatro Solis, was designed by Italian architect Carlo Zucchi in neoclassical-style, similar to the opera houses in Italy.
11. The Royal Opera House Mumbai, India
The Royal Opera House Mumbai was inaugurated by King George V in 1911, completed in 1912, and is the only surviving opera house in India. Built during the British rule in India, the three-tiered opera house was restored for six years and reopened in 2016. It has a mix of European and Indian architectural styles.