Since it’s March and spring is in the air, weather wise, I thought I would take you on a travelogue of what are considered the finest opera houses in the world. Of course, we all love Chicago’s Civic Opera House, but that’s more a stay-cation. Let’s take a brief tour outside of Chicago.
Our first stop is Milan, Italy, home to what some consider the birthplace of opera, Teatro Alla Scalla - more commonly known as La Scala. One of the oldest and grandest theatres, La Scala has become synonymous with opera in Italy, and is considered the birthplace of the artform, Built in 1778, La Scala opened its doors with a production of Salieri’s L’Europa riconoscuita. La Scala also hosted the world premieres of Bellini’s Norma (1831), Catalani’s La Wally (1892) and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (1904). The theatre seats 2000 people. Fact: La Scala once housed a casino in the foyer.
Now we head to London, England, and make a stop at The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. An opera house has stood in this location since the early 18th century; the current building is the third structure. George Handel’s operas were the first to be performed here, and he wrote a great deal of his operas and oratorios for this place in particular. For almost 25 years, Handel gave regular performances here.
The next stop on our grand tour is Palais Garnier in Paris. This stunning opera house was a part of a plan for the new Paris that Emperor Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann had planned. It is characterized by Paris’ Grand Boulevards. In 1964, Marc Chagall’s painted ceiling was mounted. It depicts scenes from 14 different operas. Today, Palais Garnier is the home of Ballet de l’Opera and showcases minor operas. The major productions now take place at Opera de la Bastille.
Our final stop is Moscow, and the iconic Bolshoi Theatre. The Bolshoi is Russia’s largest and oldest theatre. Famous for its gold ‘Soviet’ curtain, it was also the site of Lenin’s last public speech. The Bolshoi’s opera and ballet troupes are world-renowned. Fact: The Bolshoi was created as a private theater for Prince Pyotr Urusov, an 18th Century prosecutor.
I hope you have enjoyed this spring break tour of world-renowned opera houses. Whether you are an opera buff or not, it’s impossible to deny that opera houses are some of the most culturally significant and beautiful buildings in the world. Right alongside museums and libraries, opera houses are signs of wealth and prestige for the cities where they are housed. Fact: Most opera houses can be toured without purchasing a ticket to a performance. But, being the opera lover I am, I encourage you to see a performance and support the arts! From Milan to Moscow in just a few short minutes….and for free…you’re welcome! See you next time.