Théâtre des Champs-Elysées
The Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is one of the most elegant performance venues in Paris. Designed in 1913 by a group of artists (Henry Van de Velde, the Perret brothers, Antoine Bourdelle, Maurice Denis), it was the first Parisian theatre to be entirely built of reinforced concrete, and has perpetuated for the past century a tradition of eclectic programmes of a high standard (opera, recitals, orchestral concerts, dance). Its opening is still vividly remembered for the ‘scandal’ of the premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps, whose impact on the public derived as much from Stravinsky’s music as from Nijinsky’s choreography. The artistic adventure of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées has been distinguished by the presence, for over one hundred years now, of the most prestigious creative figures in the history of music, opera and dance.
The history of the State Opera dates back to the past and began in 1678, when the first public opera house in Germany was opened in Hamburg. Thanks to the Enlightenment, the art and culture of opera singing was to be made accessible to ordinary citizens from this time onwards.
From the end of the 17th to the middle of the 18th century, the Hanseatic city was known throughout Europe for its musical masterpieces. During the Second World War, the auditorium was completely destroyed in a bomb attack in 1943, but was renovated just a few years later.
Every year up to 380 performances are shown in the opera, which show historical as well as modern music theatre. The Opera piccola children’s opera series has been created for the little guests, in which the children are not only the spectators, but also perform live on stage. The young singers of the Hamburg State Opera also put their own productions on their feet every season, which they then perform in front of an audience. The performances are rounded off by concerts of the Hanseatic Philharmonic Orchestra. These offer the audience various chamber concerts throughout the season, some special concerts as well as the annual New Year’s Eve concert Salut. The State Opera’s repertoire is published each spring for the following season. An opera season starts with a big opening ceremony in August and lasts one year.
NHK Hall Tokyo
The original NHK Hall opened in 1955 at a location in Tokyo’s Uchisaiwai-cho district. Several live programs were broadcast from the hall, such as Song Plaza, Kōhaku Uta Gassen, and Personal Secrets. In 1973, a new NHK Hall was established in Shibuya, Tokyo at the site of NHK’s new headquarters, the NHK Broadcasting Center.
The acoustics for the hall were designed by Minoru Nagata, later of Nagata Acoustics, while TOA Corporation provided the hall’s sound equipment.
On April 9, 2019, it announced that it will be closed for a long period from March 2021 to June 2022 for earthquake-proof construction and renovation. The 72nd NHK Kouhaku Utagassen, scheduled to be broadcast on December 31, 2021, will be held at the Tokyo International Forum.
Circo Massimo di Roma (Teatro dell'Opera di Roma)
To an untrained eye the Circus of Maxentius just looks like a vast green pasture where locals jog or take their dogs for a walk, but in ancient times this oblong ground was, as its name indicates, Rome’s most famous and by far oldest circus.
The Circus of Maxentius was an arena for various kinds of sports and athletic competitions, although it gained fame mainly for its chariot races which often lasted from the early morning to dusk, with as many as one hundred held a day.
It could hold up to between two hundred and fifty thousand and three hundred thousand spectators either seated or standing
Recent excavation has brought to light relics which help to give us a better idea of what the circus used to look like with its countless shops, stalls and taverns flanking the track area.
After the Covid-2019 crisi, Rome’s 2020 summer opera season presented by the city’s opera house (Teatro dell’Opera di Roma) took place at the Circus Maximus, from 16 July to 13 August. The Circus Maximus hosted a total of 21 shows under the stars.
Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam
Dutch National Opera & Ballet creates, produces and presents both traditional and innovative opera and ballet productions of the highest quality. As one of the largest cultural organisations in the Netherlands, Dutch National Opera & Ballet brings all aspects of the ballet and opera world’s artistry, technique and craftsmanship together in its own specialised workshops and rehearsal rooms.
It is a young theatre with a long history. The plans for building a new theatre ran parallel to the plans for a new city hall. The first discussions held by the Amsterdam city council about building a new city hall and opera house go back to 1915. At that time, the plans were specifically for an opera house, since ballet was a relatively unknown art form back then.
Following several previous drafts, engineer Bijvoet (associated with Holt architects from 1948) was commissioned in 1956 to design an opera house. In 1961, he had to ‘move’ the design to the Ferdinand Bolstraat. Despite the city council’s approval of the plans in 1967, the project had reached an impasse at the end of the 1970s, until in 1979 the architect Holzbauer proposed that the city hall and opera house could be combined in one complex. The Council took up this idea and put it to the government of the day. The response was positive and so it was decided to pursue the idea further. It had already been agreed that the Dutch National Ballet would also be one of the resident companies of the new theatre, alongside De Nederlandse Opera. The City Council approved the design in 1980, and this was soon followed by approval from the Provincial Executive for Noord-Holland and the Crown in 1981.
The Amsterdam Music Theatre was officially opened on 23 September 1986.
Not only one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world, the Semperoper is renowned both here and abroad for the brilliant star-studded performances by Saxon State Opera as well as numerous international guest artists. This is the home of the Staatskapelle Dresden, an orchestra which looks back on 460 years of uninterrupted music-making. The State Opera Chorus was founded by Carl Maria von Weber in 1817. Operatic history has been written here, with the Semperoper playing host to numerous important premieres, such as Richard Wagner’s »Rienzi«, »Der fliegende Holländer« and »Tannhäuser«. There is also an indissoluble link to Richard Strauss, nine of whose 15 operas were premiered in Dresden, including »Salome«, »Der Rosenkavalier« and »Elektra«. The small venue Semper Zwei provides space for diverse forms of music theatre as well as theatrical experiments, and is also the venue for performances of Semperoper Junge Szene.
Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona
In the Rambla of Barcelona stands the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Its construction was funded by Catalan businessmen, when it opened in 1847, and all kinds of shows were staged there. Then, it began concentrating on opera, dance and concerts. The Liceu has been the mainspring of social and cultural life in Barcelona.
On 31 January of 1994, the auditorium and stage were totally gutted by fire. The Liceu reopened in 1999. Three goals inspired the rebuilding process:
to improve the technical facilities and enhance the level of comfort; to reinforce its status as a public-service institution; to reproduce the decoration of the auditorium as it was prior to the fire. The auditorium preserved its horse-shoe-shaped layout. Its stalls and its five galleries. With seating for 2292 people, it is one of the largest Opera House in the world. The stage is equipped with the very latest technology and can be adapted to all kinds of operatic productions.
From the seats of the Liceu the audience can enjoy the very finest operas, performances by the most distinguished dance companies, concerts and recitals by the world’s leading artists. The Liceu offers culture for everyone. And now, from the cinemas as well. Welcome to the Gran Teatre del Liceu.
Zürich Opera House
The history of Zurich Opera House begins with the “Actien-Theater” (shares theatre), which opened in 1834 with Mozart’s “Zauberflöte”.
Zurich’s first permanent theatre, it was established in the form of a joint stock company by theatre-loving citizens. The joint stock company (today known as Opernhaus Zürich AG) still runs the institution, and celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2009. The Canton of Zurich has been the main subsidiser since 1995. The old “Actien-Theater” burnt down in 1890 and was replaced by a new building designed by Fellner and Helmer.
This theatre, located not far from Bellevue on Lake Zurich, was financed almost entirely by private means. It was inaugurated with Wagner’s “Lohengrin” under the name of “Stadttheater” (town theatre) in 1891. Musical theatre and drama have gone their separate ways in Zurich since 1921. The old “Stadttheater” has been known as the Opera House since 1964. Now with a seating capacity for approximately 1,100, the theatre was renovated entirely between 1982 and 1984, and an extension was added on Uto-Quai to accommodate a second, studio stage.
In 1985 the opera orchestra was separated from the Tonhalle Orchestra, thus bringing the Zurich Opera Orchestra into being. Zurich Opera has had its own baroque ensemble (“La Scintilla”) since 1995, formed by members of the opera orchestra.
Festival Hall Baden-Baden
With a capacity of 2,500 seats, the Festival Hall Baden-Baden is one of the largest classical music venues in Europe. The building features a unique architecture as the opera hall sits on the trackbed of a former railway station, whose neo-classicist structure serves as the entrance hall of the Festival Hall Baden-Baden. The reconstructed opera house was designed by the Viennese architect Wilhelm Holzbauer in the mid-1990’s in accordance with ideal acoustic values calculated by the acclaimed Munich-based physicist Karlheinz Müller.
Teatro alla Scala, Milano
In 1776, under the auspices of Empress Maria Theresa, construction began on the buliding that was to become the greatest opera house in history. Two years later, in 1778 the Teatro Alla Scala was inaugurated with Antonio Salieri’s Europa. Verdi, Donizetti, Rossini and Puccini premiered their greatest Operas at La Scala. Today, La Scala is widely recognized as the ultimate challenge for the world’s greatest Opera virtuosos because of its passionate audiences, who always demand absolute perfection. When Luciano Pavarotti missed hitting a note perfectly in one performance, he was booed – he later said that the audience was right – he had made a mistake. 234 Years after its opening, La Scala’s magic can finally be experienced without travelling all the way to Italy.
Opéra de Paris
The Opera de Paris is the primary opera and ballet company of France.
Founded in 1669 by Louis XIV as the Académie d’Opéra or Opéra, it was shortly after placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully and officially renamed the Académie Royale de Musique. Classical ballet as it is known today arose within the Paris Opera as the Paris Opera Ballet and has remained an integral and important part of the company. Currently called the Opéra National de Paris, it mainly produces operas at its modern 2700-seat theatre Opéra Bastille which opened in 1989, and ballets and some classical operas at the older 1970-seat Palais Garnier which opened in 1875.
Created by the architect Charles Garnier in 1875, the Palais Garnier houses a prestigious auditorium and public areas (grand foyer, rotonde des abonnés, salons), a museum-library, as well as several rehearsal studios and workshops. The “Italian-style” auditorium, with its ceiling painted in 1964 by Marc Chagall, can accommodate 2054 spectators. With nearly 480,000 visitors each year, it is one of Paris’ most visited monuments. It has been listed as a historical monument since 1923.
Inaugurated in 1989, the modern Opéra Bastille, designed by Carlos Ott, houses a main auditorium with 2745 seats, a 500-seat amphitheatre, a 230-seat studio theatre, set and costumes workshops and offices. Small scale and contemporary works are also staged in it.
The Salzburg Festival was inaugurated on August 22, 1920, when Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s morality play Jedermann was premiered on the Domplatz, directed by Max Reinhardt. Initially the festival idea was based on the desire to establish outstanding artistic events of the highest standard in a close relationship with the cultural tradition of Austria, to the genius loci of a Baroque city. Thanks to the international charisma of the artists Max Reinhardt brought to Salzburg, and the visions of the founding fathers, the Salzburg Festival very quickly became a world attraction.
Since that time, the Salzburg Festival has established itself as the most important festival for opera, drama and concerts. It has become stylized as “the heart of the heart of Europe” and has always been place to explore new visionary concepts. The 2010 season celebrated the 90-year anniversary of the Salzburg Festival.
From 2012 onwards, the directorate will consist of Alexander Pereira as Artistic Director and Helga Rabl-Stadler.
Vienna State Opera House, Austria
On May 25, 1869, the opera house solemnly opened with Mozart’s DON JUAN in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth.
The popularity of the building grew under the artistic influence of the first directors but it experienced its first high point under the direction of Gustav Mahler. He completely transformed the outdated performance system, increased the precision and timing of the performances, and also utilized the experience of other noteworthy artists, such as Alfred Roller, for the formation of new stage aesthetics.
On March 12, 1945, the opera house was devastated during a bombing. For the next ten years the Vienna State Opera operated in two venues while the true headquarters was being rebuilt at a great expense. Only the main facade, the grand staircase, and the Schwind Foyer had been spared from the bombs. On November 5, 1955, the Vienna State Opera reopened with a new auditorium and modernized technology. Under the direction of Karl Böhm, Beethoven’s FIDELIO was brilliantly performed, and the opening ceremonies were broadcast by Austrian television. The whole world understood that life was beginning again for this country that had just regained its independence.
Once a year, the Vienna State Opera is transformed into the most festive and most famous ballroom in the world – the Vienna Opera Ball. This unique festival is always the undisputed pinnacle of the ball season in Vienna, as is proven by its enormous international appeal.
Today, the Vienna State Opera is considered one of the most important opera houses in the world; in particular, it is the house with the largest repertoire. It has been under the direction of Dominique Meyer, along with musical director Franz Welser-Möst, since September 1, 2010.
Arena di Verona, Italy
In the summer of 1913, to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, the tenor Giovanni Zenatello and the theatre impresario Ottone Rovato took on the financial risk of promoting a magnificent lyrical festival. With the staging of Aida, the Arena di Verona became the biggest open-air lyrical theatre in the world, a supremacy that it still holds today.
From the most passionate lovers of lyrical music to the tourist who descends upon the opera out of curiosity: the Arena creates the meeting point for these two extremities, as it is capable of combining the quality of the music and of the vocal interpretation with the magnificence of the scenography and the magic historical context of the monument.
Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin
Experiencing a performance at the former Königliche Hofoper not only means enjoying the traditionally excellent conducting and ensemble, but also a visit to one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses. The “Enchanted Castle” was commissioned by Frederick II from his friend the architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff. Construction began in July 1741 on what was intended to be the first part of a Forum Fredericianum. A full ten months before its actual completion the monarch’s impatience precipitated the opening of the Hofoper with a performance of Carl Heinrich Graun’s »Cleopatra e Cesare« on December 7th 1742. This event marked the beginning of the successful 250-year-old cooperation between the Staatsoper and Staatskapelle.
The Staatsoper Unter den Linden has a unique programme of concerts and operas, which ranges from Baroque operas in historical performance practice to the central works of the classical, romantic and modern opera literature to the realisation of premieres by contemporary composers. The performances are of the highest musical quality, something guaranteed by the presence of Daniel Barenboim as the general music director and by renowned guest conductors, a house ensemble of first-rate singers augmented by internationally known stars, and, not least, by the Berlin Staatskapelle. The productions reflect a commitment to these works from a modern perspective; they challenge conventional viewing habits, while remaining true to the spirit of the work.
During the urgently necessary renovation of the entire Staatsoper Unter den Linden, which began in 2010, the Schiller Theater in Berlin-Charlottenburg will serve the ensemble as an alternative venue from October 2010 until summer 2014. The repertoire will be performed there with the same commitment high artistic standard as in Berlin-Mitte.
Teatro Real, Madrid
The Teatro Real in Madrid is considered to be the top institution in the country in the music and performing arts field.
On January 7, 1817, King Ferdinand VII ordered an opera house to be built on the Plaza de Oriente. The first stone was laid for the construction of the Teatro Real on April 23, 1818. The theatre was renamed Teatro Nacional de la Ópera after the Glorious Revolution of 1868. In October 1925, subsiding in the building forced the theatre to be closed and a 41-year period of repairs ensued without the building opening again. The Civil War (a powder keg exploded inside the building) and hardships during the postwar years made reconstruction even more difficult and everything came to a standstill.
In 1966, the building opened to the public both as an auditorium and the offices of the Real Conservatorio de Música y Escuela de Arte Drámatico. The last concert by the Orquesta Nacional, seated here, was on October 13, 1988. From 1966 to 1988 the Teatro Real was the main concert venue in Madrid, but the need for a proper opera house led to the conversion of the building into an opera house, which began on January 2, 1991. This time the renovations lasted nearly 7 years. The opening included the performance of Manuel de Falla’s opera La Vida Breve and the ballet El Sombrero de tres picos.
In 2017, the Teatro Real celebrated the 20th anniversary of its reopening (1997-2017).
Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich
The Bayerische Staatsoper, with some 600,000 persons attending its over 450 performances each year, makes a major contribution to Munich’s reputation as one of the great international cultural capitals.
In the course of a single season, over 40 operas from four centuries are performed along with ballets, concerts and song recitals. This makes the programme of the Bayerische Staatsoper one of the most richly varied performance schedules of all the international opera houses.
Bregenz Festival, Austria
One year after the end of the Second World War, the first Bregenz Festival was held: the week-long Bregenz Festwoche. The inaugural performance was staged upon two barges moored on Lake Constance – one carrying the stage structures for Mozart’s early work Bastien et Bastienne, the other the orchestra. In a town that did not even possess a theatre, the idea of mounting a festival seemed eccentric; but the initially makeshift solution of choosing the loveliest part of the town – the lake – as the stage proved to be a hugely successful one. Visitors from Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France made the Festival an international event in its very first year. The Festival orchestra from the outset was the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, which has made a major contribution to the evolution and success of the Festival.
Thanks to strong public interest, the Festival became longer each year and its program became more varied. To accommodate the growing audience, the stage and festival house have been refurbished and enlarged over the years.
The Bregenz Festival made its debut on the cinema screen in the Bond movie Quantum of Solace. The Opera has been incorporated intriguingly into the action of the film: the chase through the Festspielhaus is at the end like an apocalyptic silent film – interspersed with dramatic scenes from the Bregenz Tosca.
In 2010 Aida had attracted the biggest number of spectators to the Seebühne stage in the festival’s history and it is now available on the big screen, this time in full length.
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Music has always played an important role in the artistic life of Florence: it was the birthplace of the melodrama at the end of the 16th century. Today musical life in Florence is focused upon the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, which is located in the Teatro Comunale. Founded in 1933 by Vittorio Gui, it is the oldest music festival in Italy, and one of the most important at international level.
The Teatro Comunale has seen the most prestigious names in music of the last century cross its threshold: conductors such as Vittorio Gui, Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Zubin Mehta, Herbert von Karajan and Riccardo Muti, “la divina” Maria Callas, Pietro Mascagni and Richard Strauss, Paul Hindemith and Bela Bartòk, Igor Stravinsky and Luigi Dallapiccola, Luigi Nono, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio, who played their own music here.
They have been joined over the years by directors and set designers of the calibre of Max Reinhardt and Gustav Gründgens, Luchino Visconti and Franco Zeffirelli, Luca Ronconi and Bob Wilson, Giorgio De Chirico and Oskar Kokoschka.
Throughout its history, the Festival has paid the closest of attention to the development of 20th century music, from the avant-garde movements of the earlier years all the way through to more recent experiences, often inviting composers to perform their own works here. It has also, however, done much to promote the rediscovery of operas and authors from the past, and thus, phenomena such as the Rossini-Renaissance and the reconsideration of Donzetti and the early works of Verdi have taken off here in Florence.
The Festival takes up the months of May and June, but the Theatre is active all year round, with Opera Seasons, Concerts and Ballets, as well as the superb summer shows in the magnificent, monumental setting of the Boboli Gardens: an uninterrupted, wide range of musical occasions for an international, demanding, erudite audience to enjoy.
The Waldbühne in Berlin is one of the most appealing outdoor amphitheaters on the European continent. With over 20,000 attendances, these are some of the most popular classical music concerts in the world.