It shouldn’t be a surprise that the clear majority of famous opera houses reside in Europe. After all, the origins of opera can be traced over 400 years to Florence, during the Italian Renaissance. What’s more, Germany has the world’s most opera houses, followed closely by Italy. If that’s not enough, the number of theaters in France rank in the Top Five. Still, it’s important to realize that some opera theaters in Europe are clearly better than others. To put it in clearer detail, there are some that are more prestigious and more influential in expanding interest in this timeless theatrical art form. While New York has the Metropolitan Opera House and Sydney has its own, it’s difficult to compare with those in the birthplace of classical music and opera. Here then, are the most famous opera houses in Europe.
Theatre Square, 1
Moscow, Russia, 125009
Just steps away from Moscow’s Red Square, the Bolshoi Theatre is on that short list of the world’s greatest opera houses. For one thing, it’s home to two of the world’s oldest and most distinguished opera and ballet companies. For another, it has been the setting for an exceptional list of world premieres. In particular are iconic ballets like Prokofiev’s Cinderella and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, arguably the most famous of all time. Of course, prominent operas have also debuted here, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Maid of Pskov and Rachmaninoff’s Aleko.
The Big Theatre
Literally translated as Big Theater, the Bolshoi opened in 1825. However, its namesake ballet and opera companies date back to 1776. Not only is the Bolshoi Ballet among the world’s oldest ballet companies, it’s among the world’s best. Among the upcoming highlights are Prokiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Verdi’s La Traviata. However, many performances are already sold out. There is no question, the Big Theatre is easily among the finest opera houses in Europe.
Via Filodrammatici, 2
20121 Milan MI, Italy
Teatro alla Scala is widely considered the world’s most famous opera house. In fact, many of history’s most important operas premiered at The Staircase. For instance, Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff operas premiered here, as did Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and Turandot. What’s more, many of Europe’s most celebrated performers have appeared on the iconic stage. However, it’s not just the operas, ballets and performers that makes La Scala famous. Indeed, the interior design with six tiers of seating, is simply breathtaking. Coupled with red velvet seats and gilded sculptures, La Scala is an architectural masterpiece.
What Is The Meaning Of La Scala
Teatro alla Sclala is translated in English as Theater at the Staircase. It gets its name from the former church Santa Maria all Scala on which it stands. The famed opera house is particularly noted for its box seating and the gallery section above it. This more affordable gallery is known as loggione. The guests seated or standing in the loggione developed a reputation as the loudest of critics. As a result, La Scala earned the nickname “Baptism by Fire”. La Scala has a seating capacity of 2,030.
Upcoming Concerts in Milan
This season, Teatro all Scala will host several operas, ballets and concerts. For instance, the opera Pique Dame begins February 23. Equally notable are La Scala Philharmonic March 7 and Cinderella for Children March 26.
National Theatre Munich
80539 München, Germany
Set in the historic city center, the National Theatre of Munich is the largest opera house in Germany. In fact, Nationaltheater has been the site for several important opera debuts. Most notably are Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. Additionally, the premieres of Richard Strauss’ Friedenstag and Capriccio, were held in the theater. Unfortunately, the second built theatre was completely destroyed by allied bombing during World War II. In 1963, the current building opened as a facsimile of the original neo-classical structure.
Home to Ballet and Opera
Nationaltheater is home to three of Germany’s top musical entities. In addition to the Bavarian State Opera, the theater is home to the Bavarian State Orchestra and State Ballet. The current structure looks much like the original that opened in October 1818, with eight Corinthian columns. With tiered seating, the theater can seat up to 2,101 guests. It’s clearly among the finest opera houses in Europe.
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Palais Garnier Opera House
Pl. de l’Opéra
75009 Paris, France
There is no question Palais Garnier is on a short list of the world’s finest opera houses. In this case, it’s clearly among Europe’s most beautiful, with its palatial Neo-Baroque architecture. Furthermore, it was one of the most expensive to build and has Europe’s largest stage. Equally important is this opera house was the inspiration for the novel The Phantom of the Opera. Of course, it gained even greater fame with the subsequent films and enduring Broadway musical. On the other hand, the opera house has not hosted as many notable premieres as some others. In fact, most operas today are held at the newer Opéra Bastille. The most famous French opera, Bizet’s Carmen, made its debut at Opéra-Comique in 1875
Monument of Paris
Named after its architect, Palais Garnier is among the greatest architectural achievements in Paris. The principal façade, in particular, is a masterpiece in design, with several notable features. For example, there are sculptures of famous composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Rossini. Additionally on the rooftop is the sculpture of Apollo, Poetry and Music, with bronze sculptures on either side. You must not also overlook magnificent Grand Foyer and Grand Staircase. In all, Palais Garnier is the largest opera house in Europe.
Royal Opera House
Bow St., Covent Garden
London WC2E 9DD, United Kingdom
The Royal Opera House is often called Covent Garden due to its prominent location in central London. A center of entertainment for nearly 300 years, ROH is not only home to the Royal Opera but the Royal Ballet and Orchestra. Like many famous Renaissance-era opera houses, ROH has been rebuilt, with the current version opening in 1858. Performances of the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet companies began in 1946. For this reason, notable early premieres include Sleeping Beauty in 1946 and Bizet’s Carmen in 1947.
What’s Playing at the Royal Opera House
The season is in full swing with several upcoming highlights for the 2,256-seat theater. To point out a few are Verdi’s Rigoletto through March 12 and beginning March 1, the classic ballet Swan Lake. In addition are tours of ROH from February 21 to May 31. Another tour, Velvet, Gilt and Glamour, runs through April.
Teatro di San Carlo (Naples)
Via San Carlo, 98,
80132 Napoli NA, Italy
Teatro di San Carlo is unique in many ways in comparison to other leading opera houses. For one, it’s the world’s oldest in continuous operation, opening in 1737. Furthermore, its horseshoe-shaped seating arrangement is likewise the world’s oldest. During a high peak of creativity, this famous opera house hosted several notable composers. In detail are classic music icons, like Rossini, Puccini and Verdi. In addition, Teatro di San Carlo attracted famous foreign composers, such as Franz Joseph Haydn and Johann Christian Bach.
The 2021/2022 opera season is currently running through May. Of particular interest to you is Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca from April 20 to May 3. The ballet season begins in April, with Sergei’s Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet a special highlight beginning May 22. In July, the historic theater will also host Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Verdi’s La Traviata.
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Teatro La Fenice
Campo S. Fantin, 1965,
30124 Venice VE, Italy
Not only is La Fenice one of the most famous opera houses, it’s among the most beautiful. Built during a period when several opera houses stood in Venice, La Fenice opened in 1792. Yet as its English translation suggests, it has literally risen from the ashes. After all, this renowned facility burned to the ground not once, but twice. Despite these setbacks, La Fenice hosted the premieres of several timeless operas. Hence its legendary status, with notable operas like Rigoletto, La traviata and Tancredi.
Where Is Teatro La Fenice in Venice?
La Fenice is a five-minute walk from the western edge of St Marks Square, near the Music Museum. The current 2021/2022 season will feature several important operas well into May. In brief are important operas like Faust and Le baruffe. Additionally, Venice’s most important opera house will feature concerts with La Fenice orchestra and choir.
Vienna State Opera
1010 Vienna, Austria
No list of Europe’s leading opera houses is complete without the Vienna State Opera. After all, Vienna can be considered a cradle of classical music, with the likes of Mozart, Shubert and Strauss. On the other hand, this opera house was not completed until 1869. Of course, long after Mozart’s Magic Flute and Requiem made its debut in Vienna. That’s not to mention the premieres of Beethoven’s Fifth and Ninth Symphony. Despite this, the theater is able to stand out on its own.
Where Is The Vienna State Opera House?
The Wiener Staatsoper can be found in the historic city center, unsurprisingly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The renowned opera house is one of the world’s busiest, with numerous opera and ballet performances each year. Moreover, the theater’s esteemed orchestra is closely linked to the world famous Vienna Philharmonic.
The Vienna State Opera House has an extensive calendar of upcoming performances. In further detail are Puccini’s Tosca in March, Bizet’s Carmen in April and Wagner’s Das Rheingold in May. Additionally in May are Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and Wagner’s Die Walküre.
About The Author
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget and Radio.com.