The most important and most beautiful opera houses and concert halls in Europe.
An overview by city and background information.
OVERVIEW AND ACCESS (Click for more informations)
Teatro Gaetano Donizetti (Lower city)
The theater dates back to 1800 after having burned down 4 years earlier, after only 6 years of operation. Donizetti had a great personal triumph here in 1840, when the city celebrated him with an opera performance. On the occasion of his 100th birthday, the beautiful theater was named after Donizetti.
In 2016 it began the tradition of an annual Donizetti Festival in November, which has gained an excellent reputation within a short time.
Teatro Sociale (Upper city)
The Teatro is the historic theater of the upper town of Bergamo and is the smaller of the two theaters and gave up operation in 1929. In an effort the city had the theater renovated again and since 2009 it is again played (mainly concerts and theater performances).
State Opera Unter den Linden (formerly Royal Court Opera)
This traditional and beautiful opera house has had a turbulent history and many name changes (Unter den Linden, German State Opera, Royal Court Opera, etc.). It was severely damaged by fire twice (in the 18th century and in World War II) and was immediately rebuilt in 1942 to raise public morale.
After the air raid:
“Wozzeck” by Alban Berg was premiered here. Otto Nicolai also served as director of the opera here, where he premiered his work “The Merry Wives of Windsor”.
A Respectable Ancestral Gallery of Artistic Directors
The State Opera is a magnificent opera house and an outstanding history. The gallery of directors includes names such as Giacomo Meyerbeer, Otto Nicolai, Erich Kleiber, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Joseph Keilberth. Daniel Barenboim has been the director of this Berlin institution since 1992.
The building was rebuilt in 1843 after a fire as a magnificent imperial structure and served as a court opera. After the fall of the empire, it changed its name to the Staatsoper.
View of the State Opera:
A brilliant period during the GDR era with Felsenstein
Despite its young age, the third opera in the Berlin opera company has a troubled past. It was created at the end of the 19th century and was an operetta and revue theater until World War II. The theater was severely damaged during the war and then rebuilt with a more modern facade. Walter Felsenstein, a native of Vienna, was appointed by the Russian occupation forces as the director of this opera in 1847. However, he did not pick up the operetta thread, but he subsequently established musical theater with his productions.
Felsenstein’s productions gained an international reputation with the trademark that they were dramaturgically staged – like spoken theater – down to the last detail. This was only possible with a permanent ensemble, so that the comic opera eluded the emerging star guest theater that developed after World War II.
Felsenstein thus had a decisive influence on opera, as more thought was now given to interpretation and staging in other houses as well. Thus Felsenstein is considered one of the fathers of modern director’s theater.
Successors such as Harry Kupfer or Andreas Homoki adopted the idea of musical theater as artistic directors. Since 2012, with a new artistic directorship, the theater has opened up to jazz and operetta and is somewhat reconnecting with their tradition as a revue and operetta theater.
In 2023, a major renovation remodel will begin.
Theater at the Schiffbauerdamm
Place of premiere of the Threepenny Opera
The genesis of the Threepenny Opera was dramatic. Everyone expected it to fail. But the first performance at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm on August 31, 1928, became a triumphant success that had never been expected and made Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht suddenly famous. Weill’s melodies became popular hits and the work was performed 10,000 times in the first 5 years alone. The theater still exists today and Bertold Brecht still forms an important part of the repertoire.
Theater am Schiffbauerdamm:
Maxim Gorki Theater / Sing Akademie
On March 11, 1829, one of the most far-reaching musical performances in history took place in this building. Twenty-year-old Felix Mendelssohn performed with the Sing-Akademie the St. Matthew Passion by the now almost forgotten Bach, which had not been performed for almost 100 years. This enthusiastically received event triggered a Bach euphoria that continues to this day, 200 years later. Yet Zelter, the director of the Singakademie and Mendelssohn’s teacher, friend and patron, considered the work unperformable and wanted to ban the production. However, Mendelssohn and his friend Devrient managed to successfully stage the monumental work with 200 performers.
The building of the Singakademie had been designed a few years earlier, based on a design by Schinkel. It had been commissioned by Zelter for the Singakademie, which was dedicated to historical choral works. Mendelssohn himself had joined as a singer in 1819. The building enjoyed excellent acoustics and in the 1930s became a popular venue for recordings by Mengelberg and Furtwängler, among others. In addition, in the 19th century, everything that had rank and name such as Niccolò Paganini, Franz Liszt, Clara and Robert Schumann, Anton Rubinstein or Johannes Brahms gave concerts here.
During World War II, the building was severely damaged and later rebuilt by the Russian authorities as the “Maxim Gorky” Drama Theater, which it still is today.
Maxim Gorky Theater:
Historical painting (1843):
Music venue of the Berlin Philharmonic
In 1963, Berlin’s new flagship concert hall, the Philharmonie, was launched. Architect Hans Scharoun designed a concert hall with a polygonal floor plan consisting of several pentagons offset into each other. The orchestra is placed almost in the center, so that the view and listening experience in the Philharmonie vary depending on the seat.
The hall is the ancestral home of the renowned Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, which moved to the Philharmonie as its new headquarters from the very beginning.
Due to the rising seats, the view from all 2250 seats is excellent and the acoustics impress with their sophisticated design. Among other things, the ceiling was equipped with 136 prism-shaped resonators whose opening can be regulated and thus adapted to the conditions.
In a second phase, the concrete façade was finished with golden aluminum cladding, which gives the building a fascinating aura in addition to its striking form.
In the 1980s, a sister building, the so-called Chamber Music Hall, was created next door.
Birmingham Town Hall
Site of the premiere of Mendelssohn’s Elias Oratorio
The building was designed in the Roman style in the style of the ancient Temple of Castor in the Roman Forum, with more than three dozen Corinthian columns. The hall became famous for its organ, it was at that time the largest and technologically most advanced in the world with its 6,000 pipes (by William Hill & Sons).
Town Hall (historic image 1845):
Town Hall (actual image):
Théâtre de la monnaie
The current opera house dates from 1855, the previous building fell victim to a conflagration. The beautiful portico is still from the original building from 1819.
Starting point of the Belgian Revolution
Here happened the famous ressurection after the performance of Auber’s “La muette de Portici”, which triggered the belgian revolution. This opera was last performed in this theater in 1930 for its 100th anniversary, and has not been performed since. A concert performance was dropped in 2015 for political reasons, and the opera still seems to be a hot potato today. Are we looking forward to 2030…?
The Théâtre de la monnaie is a renowned opera house, a visit is highly recommended.
Théâtre de la monnaie :
In 1832, city authorities honored the transient Bellini (who was born in Catania) with a triumphant reception and glamorous evening of opera at the Teatro Comunale (now the Coppola Theater, destroyed by a bombing in 1943). A grand opera house was opened in 1890 with Bellini’s “Norma”, named after his famous son. Guided tours of the beautiful theater are available.
The Teatro Massimo Bellini is also one of the venues for the annual Bellini Festival, which runs for several weeks. Founded in 2009, the festival has always caused a stir with productions, such as the “Norma” performed in Taormina in 2012. The festival takes place between late September and early November.
Teatro Massimo Bellini:
Opera House Dusseldorf
An important concert venue was the old theater, which Immermann built up into a model theater. The famous “Don Giovanni” performance, directed by Felix Mendelssohn also took place here. The theater later gave way to a larger theater building, which was rebuilt after a bomb hit during the Second World War, but had to make way for a new building in the 1950s. Today this house is a renowned 2-section theater.
Auditorium Opera House Düsseldorf:
Today, statues by Mendelssohn and Immermann commemorate this time of artistic awakening in Düsseldorf.
The original Tonhalle, where Mendelssohn performed his Paulus oratorio, no longer stands; like so many other buildings, it fell victim to the Second World War.
The unusual design
After the war, a new building was erected on a different site (“New Tonhalle”) whose large hall is called “Mendelssohn Hall” in honor of the composer. The building has a circular architecture, whose unusual and spectacular shape also characterizes the Mendelssohn Hall.
Since the improvement measures of the acoustics in 2005, this hall also belongs to the acoustically best halls in Germany. Taking a guided tour (including the integrated planetarium) or attending a concert is recommended.
Interior of the new Tonhalle Düsseldorf:
The Maximilian Church is known for its high quality church music. You can find the program on the website:
St. Lambertus Church:
St. Lambertus Church was one of the two churches (along with Maximiliankirche) for which Schumann had to perform musical contributions. St. Lambertus still maintains church music today, curated and performed by a cantor. Concerts are regularly performed in the church.
Semper Opera (Saxon State Opera)
Associated with the name of Gottfried Semper
The Semper Opera, or Saxon State Opera, is one of the most beautiful opera houses anywhere. The circular building is named after its architect Gottfried Semper. The first Semper Opera was inaugurated in 1841. Semper was a friend of Richard Wagner and, like the latter, was a participant in the May Uprisings. He had to flee Dresden eight years after the opening of the opera house and (like Wagner) was not allowed to set foot on Saxon soil.
In 1869, the building fell victim to flames. Again Semper drew up the plans, but he was still not allowed to return to Saxony. His eldest son took over construction supervision for him.
Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner
The Semper Opera had its most artistically exciting moments with Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner. Wagner was Kapellmeister here for many years and first performed the “Dutchman” and “Tannhäuser” here. Strauss staged half a dozen of his operas here for the first time, including the great works of the pre-war years Salome (1905), Elektra (1909) and Der Rosenkavalier
After World War II to the present
During the Second World War, the building was destroyed. A reconstruction according to Semper’s plans began in the seventies and in 1985 the house was reopened with Freischütz, which was also the last opera to be performed there in 1944. The building suffered further damage in the 2002 floods, which cost almost 30 million euros.
Today, the State Opera is a multi-branch house with symphony concerts, opera and ballet performances.
Das Gebäude der Hofoper brannte 1869 vollständig ab. Ein Bild gibt einen Eindruck dieses traditionsreichen Opernhauses:
Semperßs first Court opera:
Esterhazy Fertöd Castle
Haydn was 29 years old when he was offered a vice-chapel position with Prince Esterhazy in Eisenstadt, the most important noble family in Hungary. When the Esterhazy palace was expanded into a completely oversized absolutist magnificent building, it had a large theater hall that could accommodate an entire orchestra. So the Haydns moved to the new Esterhazy Palace During these Esterhazy years Haydn composed, staged and conducted one work after another and became the entertainment machine of the palace. This state of affairs lasted until 1790, when with the death of the prince the orchestra was disbanded.
The palace is one of the baroque representative buildings and one of the largest palaces in Europe. Guided tours of the building are offered and are available.
Haydn’s concert hall is the heart of the palace and still impresses visitors today. Due to its splendor and excellent acoustics, a concert in this hall has an experiential value, concerts are offered throughout the year. The program can be found in the concert calendar.
Concert calendar Esterhazy:
In 2017, the Elbphilharmonie was opened. Already the construction phase was spectacular, among other things, an 18-month construction stop ensured that the cost of the project became 10 times higher than predicted, or in numbers: 866 million euros instead of 77 million euros.
The Philharmonie stands on a former warehouse building and towers 110 m above the Elbe at its highest point. The lowest point of the facade, which is reminiscent of a sailing ship, is 30 meters lower. But the horizontal ground plan is not straight either, as the building stands on a wedge-shaped base that is 85 meters wide on one side and 22 meters wide on the other.
The glass front impresses with a crystalline sparkle that is caused by partially individually curved glass elements.
The building designed by Herzog & de Meuron has 24 floors, in addition to the large concert hall and 2 smaller concert halls, there are also apartments, a conference hotel and gastronomy at this location. It is rounded off by a plaza at a lofty height.
The concert hall
The concert hall is designed -inspired by the Berlin Philharmonic- in the so-called Weinberg architecture, with rows of audience rising steeply and the stage arranged in the center of the room.
At a 2019 Jonas Kaufmann concert, acoustics suddenly became an issue. The architectural team, supervised by an experienced Japanese acoustician, had put a lot of energy into this issue. Among other things, 10,000 individually milled plasterboards with sound grooves were installed. After initial expressions of displeasure with Kaufmann’s concert, more in-depth analysis showed that the acoustics were not bad, but treacherous, meaning that the placement of a singer or an instrument can have massive changes on the sound experience, and that experience still diverges from row to row of seats.
The house orchestra of the Elbphilharmonie is the NDR Orchestra, but of course countless guest performances are planned.
Schubert Museum and Dreimäderlhaus Hohenems
Home of the Schubertiades since 1976
Here, in 1976, Hermann Prey and Gerd Nachbauer, inspired by the Schubertiades, had inaugurated a Schubert cycle that has gone on to ever wider circles. These Schubert Festivals are now the most prestigious in the world and attract the best performers. There are Schubert Festivals also during the year, meanwhile the concert calendar stretches throughout the year. The main performance venues are the Markus-Sittikus-hall in Hohenems and (in an idyllic landscape) the Angelika-Kauffmann-hall in Schwarzenberg.
Karlsruhe, Baden State Theater
Karlsruhe was visited in the 19th century by Brahms, who spent a long time in nearby Baden-Baden in summer retreats. He had made contact in Baden-Baden with Hermann Levi, whose Karlsruhe orchestra often played in nearby Baden-Baden. It was in the Karlsruhe Court Theater that Brahms’ first symphony was premiered in 1876, which Brahms had previously completed in Lichtental and deliberately did not want to present in his home town of Vienna.
The former court theater was destroyed during the Second World War, the ruins were demolished in 1963 and replaced by a modern new building. The State Theater is a renowned multi-band theater, and in honor of Hermann Levi, the square in front of the theater was named after him.
State opera of Baden:
The third (new) Gewandhaus:
The previous building was destroyed by fire
The second Gewandhaus became a victim of the Second World War. Due to the severe damage, it was decided not to rebuild it and a building for the university was erected.
The third (new) Gewandhaus was built in GDR times. “The large hall with 1900 seats has excellent acoustics. During construction, the hall was occupied several times by soldiers of the NVA to test the acoustics at full capacity.
In the fall of 1989, the Gewandhaus took on political significance. Kurt Masur opened the house for the so-called “Gewandhaus Talks,” public discussion rounds in which the reforms and future of the GDR were debated. Thus, the Gewandhaus became a platform for the political opposition of the GDR.” (Source: Wikipedia, own translation).
Since Mendelssohn Bartholdy, the Gewandhaus Orchestra has had a dazzling gallery of artistic directors and still has an excellent reputation in the music world. For the program, see the website.
The first Gewandhaus, Mendelssohn’s place of work, was built in the 18th century from an attic converted from a cloth warehouse. Here, in addition to two symphonies by Schumann, the first performances of Mendelssohn’s E minor violin concerto (with Ferdinand David as soloist) and Schubert’s C major symphony (No.9) took place.
For the program, see the website.
Concert hall of the historic Gewandhaus:
The building lost its function as a concert hall at the end of the 19th century and was rebuilt into a Municipal Department Store complex. During the Second World War it was severely damaged and underwent basic reconstruction. A memorial plaque on the second floor of the historical staircase reminds of the former entrance to the Gewandhaus concert hall.
Städtisches Kaufhaus (“City department store”):
Royal Opera House Convent Garden I/II
The building dates from the mid-19th century, before which two previous houses had burnt down. It seats 2,250 spectators, the theatre has been entitled “Royal” since 1892 and is used by the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet. Since its construction, the theatre has been shut down twice, the first time during the First World War when it was used for storage and the second time from 1996-1999 when it was renovated and extended.
Royal Opera House Convent Garden II/II
Maria Callas’ famous Tosca in the Convent Garden
A performance of “Tosca” at London’s Convent Garden in 1964 resulted in a unique Callas mania. “At the beginning of 1964, the music world experienced something completely unexpected: prima donna Maria Callas returned to the opera stage of the Royal Opera House in London and landed a long-lasting sensational success with her interpretation of Tosca. Not even the Beatles had more press. Yet Maria Callas’ glorious career seemed to have come to an end long ago, and she herself had become a myth. It was no longer her voice but her scandals that dominated the headlines at that time.
She wanted to impress her fans and her critics once again
Disappointed by her love for multi-billionaire and playboy Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas wanted to show everyone once again that she was right to bear the title ‘Primadonna Assoluta’. On the condition that star director Franco Zeffirelli took over the direction, the exceptional singer finally agreed to sing Tosca. Her fans lined up for days in front of the opera house and spent the cold winter nights in sleeping bags and on folding chairs to get one of the coveted tickets and to experience their star once again in her signature role” (source: ORF, Wischmann). The performance became a triumph and swan song for Callas. The BBC recorded the second act live.
Angela Gheorghiu ignites her career in Convent Garden
Gheorghiu was born in 1965 in rural Romania into a working class family. At the age of 14 she went to Bucharest to the music high school and afterwards to the music college.
She left Romania shortly after and was engaged at the Royal Opera House in London, where she made her debut as Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. A key event was the encounter with Georg Solti. At the age of 84 he wanted to produce his first Traviata with fresh artists and met Angela Gheorghiu. He was thrilled. When the opera was showed in the opera house “Her performance spontaneously convinced the BBC’s television management to change the programme and switch live to the Royal Opera House in London to broadcast the performance on television. This is how the triumph of the “soprano” (wikipedia) began in London.
Royal Albert Hall I/III
Queen Victoria’s gigantic building
Queen Victoria commissioned her army engineers to build this gigantic structure. Six million bricks were piled up. When the 40 m high dome was put on, the building was evacuated, but it only sank 1 mm and evenly. In memory of her beloved deceased husband, after whom the building was named, the Queen had his initials inscribed everywhere; it is said that over 10,000 initials were inscribed on railings, entrances, etc.
At the inauguration of the building, the Queen was apparently so moved that she did not want to give the speech, but entrusted the task to her son.
The then largest organ in the world
With 10,000 pipes, the largest organ in the world at the time was installed. Camille-Saint-Saens, perhaps the greatest organist of the time (next to Anton Bruckner), played the instrument for the opening. Bruckner also visited the Royal Albert Hall and marvelled at the organ, whose bellows were powered by steam engines. He came back the next day and the steam lasted longer than planned, which saved Bruckner’s life, as it meant he did not take the train he had planned to take, on which an accident was to occur. When Bruckner arrived at the station, the seriously injured were just being carried out.
Opening of the Royal Albert Hall in 1871:
Royal Albert Hall II/III
In 1877 Wagner conducted a series of 8 concerts at the RAH. He was in very poor health and he conducted only the first half of each concert (the second half was conducted by Hans Richter). He only made the trip to pay off the gigantic debts of the first Bayreuth festival in 1876. Wagner’s London trip became famous because Wagner conducted very poorly due to his health problems. Several times his memory failed him badly and his beat was very unsteady.
The acoustic issue
Wagner immediately noticed that the hall with the double echo had a big acoustic problem. This problem was only solved to some extent in 1969 with a construction under the roof.
Royal Albert Hall III/III
The most famous event at the Royal Albert Hall is of course the Proms, especially the last night with its exuberant atmosphere. The Proms take place in August.
King’s Theatre (heutzutage Her Majesty’s Theatre)
Home of Handel’s famous theater compagnie
The Haymarket Theater was the stage for Handel’s three glorious opera companies. More than 25 of his operas were premiered here. The building was first called Queen’s Theater, with the change of power in 1714 changed to King’s Theater or simply Theater at Haymarket.
The original theater no longer stands because in 1789 a fire was set by a disappointed artist during a rehearsal. After another fire, the present building was opened in 1897. Long used as a dramatic theater, it has been hosting musical productions for many years.
The historic King’s Theatre:
Great choral and organ works are regularly performed in Westminster Abbey.
St. Pauls Cathedral
It is not only the church where Charles married his Diana, but St Paul’s is also a place of concerts.
English National Opera
The second English opera house in London offers high quality classical opera, sung in English.
London Symphony Orchestra
Since 1982 the Barbican Hall has been the concert venue for the LSO, probably the UK’s most prestigious classical orchestra. It captivates not only by the quality of its music, but also by the incredibly illustrious pedigree of its principal conductors (including Richter, Elgar, Beecham, Mengelberg, Monteux, Previn, Abbado, Davis, Rattle).
Royal Festival Hall (South Bank Centre)
It is the home of the London Philharmonic and other orchestras with a dense and high quality concert programme.
Sheldonian Theatre (Oxford)
This theatre is not in London, but still worth a trip because of its proximity.
Joseph Haydn’s honorary doctorate
The celebration of the conferment of the honorary doctorate lasted three days.Haydn’s Symphony Number 92 was given at the festive concert; it has since borne the honorary title “Oxford Symphony.” Haydn had composed this commissioned work for London for a Parisian commission and had coldly sold it twice. When Haydn was asked to perform something after receiving his honorary doctorate, he stepped up to the organ, fiddled somewhat nervously with his clothes, and said “I thank you.” To which the dignitary replied “You speak very good English!”.
The extraordinary, magnificent Sheldonian Theater where the festivities took place still stands today and is a must-see when visiting Oxford. See the website for tours and/or concerts in this wonderful building.
Teatro alla Scala I
Built in record time
The Scala was built in 1778 under Austrian rule in a record time of 2 years, as the previous building had burned down. It got its name from a church with a monastery on the site, which held that name. The auditorium is made of wood covered with velvet and thus has excellent acoustics.
In the following 150 years La Scala became the place of many important premieres of composers like Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini.
In 1943 it was badly damaged by bombs and opened with a glorious concert conducted by Toscanini. A soprano solo by the still unknown Renata Tebaldi became a sensation.
Originally the theater had 3000 seats, many of them in the 600 boxes. Today there are still 150 boxes and 2300 seats. Above the boxes are the seats of the Logionisti, the notorious, uncompromising visitors, who have brought many an established star to fury with boos.
Teatro alla Scala II: Honoring composers and artists
Rossini became one of the most important composers for La Scala early on, his name was enough to fill the theaters. La Scala honored Rossini with a large statue in its premises.
Rossini’s Statue in the Scala:
5 of Donizetti’s 71 operas were premiered at La Scala. Among them was his “Lucrezia Borgia”. This piece struggled with censorship in the 19th century and was performed with 6 different titles in its first 10 years; in 1845 in Paris, Italians even became Turks (“La rinnegata”).
La Scala honored Donizetti with a statue in the foyer of the theater.
Donizetti’s bust in the Scala:
Toscanini had an eventful time at La Scala. He experienced La Scala as a cellist and got to know Verdi. He had an artistic partnership with Puccini. With the rise of fascism, he refused to play at La Scala its anthem, the Giovinezza, and left Italy and La Scala. It was he who, 20 years later, as the Immaculate, had the honor of gloriously opening La Scala, which was reopened and renovated after the war.
Toscanini’s bust in the Scala:
Teatro alla Scala III: Puccinis difficult hours at La Scala
Two operas were premiered at La Scala during Puccini’s lifetime, both of them failed there. The premiere of Butterfly even became the most bitter moment of Puccini’s career, read more about it in the digression below. Only the premiere of Turandot became a triumph, but Puccini did not live to see it. Many of Puccini’s works are still among the most performed at La Scala today.
Teatro alla Scala IV: Maria Callas
The famous “punto Callas”
La Scala was the artistic center of the most important opera singer of the 20th century. The severely myopic Callas knew La Scala acoustically like the back of her hand and had a point on stage where her voice could develop the best acoustic effect, the so-called “punto Callas”. Where this point was located is disputed.
Teatro alla Scala V: the high C
The high C of Verdi’s “di quella pira”
The opera house is still a central cultural place of Milan and still makes the hearts and blood pressure of the Italians rise higher, as the following story about Verdi and the high C proves: The famous aria “Di quella pira” from “Il Trovatore” is usually concluded with a high C. Interestingly, Verdi did not compose a high C at this point. Enrico Tamberlinck, one of the first Manrico had explicitly asked Verdi for permission. The maestro had explicitly allowed it, on the condition that the C would also be sung beautifully. Thus this convention has prevailed and most listeners know the aria only in this way; following the original low note of the score would cause irritation, if not disappointment, in the audience.
Even Toscanini, who forbade any liberties taken by singers in the 19th century, accepted the convention. In 2000, for the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Verdi’s death at the opera house “La Scala” in Milan, Riccardo Muti, the conductor and artistic director of La Scala, ordered that this aria be sung in the original version, that is, without the high C. After the aria there was a hail of boos and the result was a real theater scandal that moved the press and the minds for days.
Teatro alla Canobbiana (today Teatro lirico)
Site of the premiere of “Elisir d’amore”
This theater was the premiere site of his “Elisir d’amore”. Donizetti wrote the opera in an incredible 13 days. The time pressure stemmed from the fact that a composer at Milan’s Teatro alla Canobbiana (the city’s popular second theater, along with La Scala) was unable to complete his commissioned work in time, and the theater therefore needed an alternative at short notice. It is interesting to see Donizetti’s autographs of the “Elisir”, because Donizetti wrote out only the vocal lines, in addition he noted the bass lines to indicate the harmonic progression. To this he added remarks on how to orchestrate. The copyist then wrote out the parts and completed the score under Donizetti’s supervision. Hector Berlioz attended one of the first performances of the opera, and he was not very complimentary about the theater business at that time. He had to strain to hear the music above the din of the audience. People were talking to each other, gambling for money, dining, and successfully drowning out the orchestra.
The Canobbiana was renamed the “Teatro lirico” in 1894 and has had a troubled history since then, including a fire in 1937. A renovation has been underway for several years. The opening is planned for 2021 or 2022.
After the devastating fire in 1937:
Bolshoi Theater Moscow
Famous for Ballet
The Bolshoi Theater is famous for its ballet performances. Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” was premiered here. The Bolshoi’s legendary ballet troupe of 200 dancers often tours abroad, and performances in Moscow are almost always sold out. Opera performances are also of the highest quality, often sung in Russian but increasingly in original languages.
The visit of Stalin
This was also the site of Stalin’s infamous visit, accompanied by Molotov, as he listened to an opera by Shoshtakovich from behind a box curtain. A few days later, Pravda ran an article, probably written by Stalin, denouncing the work, thus Shoshtakovich was permanently in danger of being imprisoned. This fear accompanied him in the next years of his life and led him to depression and suicidal thoughts.
Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.
Where Horowitz Enchanted the World
This hall, dating from 1901, with its excellent acoustics, which is said to be based on ceramic hollow bodies inserted in the ceiling vault. It seats 1800 visitors and has an unusually large stage.
It was the place where Vladimir Horowitz played the moving concert on his return in 1986 after more than 50 years of exile. Everything had to be perfect, 50 sound engineers and technicians of Deutsche Grammophon traveled to capture this event of the century. It was clear that Horowitz wanted to play on his grand piano and this concert became the greatest pianistic pop event of the 20th century, with the peculiarity that the pop star was already 82 years old!
Natalya Sats Musical Theater
A unique children’s theater with a troubled past
In 1936, Natalya Sats asked Sergei Prokofiev to write a work that would introduce children to orchestral instruments and that would appeal to childr
en’s musical tastes.
Natalya Sats ran a children’s theater as a state institution and approached Prokofiev, who had attended the theater with his sons. Prokofiev was enthusiastic about the idea of a work for children and set the libretto of “Peter and the Wolf” to music within a week with the first piano sketch. The first performance at the Moscow Conservatory was not successful, however, because Natalya became ill and the substitute narrator was inexperienced. A second performance with Natalya became a great success.
In the Gulag
When Prokofiev returned from his U.S. tour a year later, Sats was already in the Gulag because her husband, a minister, had fallen victim to a purge. Sats sat in Siberia for 5 years, but was fully rehabilitated after Stalin’s death. She rebuilt the Children’s Theater created a new building in 1965, which still bears her name as an institution.
MUNICH AND BAVARIA
Bavarian State Opera I
Ballett and Opera
The State Opera was opened in 1817 as the Court Opera. It was severely damaged three times, after two major fires and the damage from the Second World War. Today, the Munich National Theatre is home to the Bavarian State Opera, the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Bavarian State Ballet. It seats 2100 spectators.
Bavarian State Opera II
Wagner und Strauss For opera and classic fans
It was the premiere venue for “Tristan und Isolde,” “Meistersinger von Nürnberg,” “Die Walküre” and “Rheingold.” The latter two were performed against Wagner’s will and in his absence.
Only Strauss’ twelveth opera was premiered in his hometown. Strauss was offended that he was passed over for the post of general music director in 1886. He even wrote a reckoning with his hometown with his opera “Feuersnot”. Strauss was offended that he was passed over for the post of general music director in 1886. He even wrote a reckoning with his hometown with his opera “Feuersnot”. Only when his friend Clemenss Krauss (presumably through Hitler’s mediation) took over the direction of the Munich Opera did two premieres take place there (Friedenstag in 1938, and Capriccio in 1942).
A special relationship with Bruckner
With the 7th Symphony, Munich established an important Bruckner tradition. First it was Hermann Levi, then Ferdinand Löwe, who led Bruckner’s work to flower. The tradition was passed on to the legendary Celibidache concerts in the Gasteig. Among others, the Gasteig opened in 1985 with Bruckner’s 5th. Ghergiev also maintains the Bruckner tradition in our days.
Issue of accoustics
A constant source of discussion is the acoustics, which cannot compete with those of Berlin or Düsseldorf.
Gasteig Concert hall:
Cuviliés Theater Munich
Premiere site of Mozart’s Idomeneo
The Cuvilliés Theater, site of the first performance of “Idomeneo”, was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt from scratch. Fortunately, a considerable part of the interior furnishings were dismantled in a daring action before the aerial bombs did their terrible work. With the rescued interior parts, a new Cuvilliés Theater was created elsewhere, which can be visited and is considered the most beautiful rococo theater in Germany.
Reproduction of the Cuvillié Theater from the 19th century:
The theatre for Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk (Total work of Art)
It was clear to Wagner from the very beginning, that the performance of such a work like “The ring of the Nibelung” in existing theatres was hardly possible. Early the idea of his own festival theatre was born. But it was to take another 25 years until its completion. Securing the financing of this enormous undertaking cost Wagner a great deal of work. In 1872 Wagner and his wife Cosima moved to Bayreuth, and construction work began. Together with many patrons he succeeds in raising money for the laying of the foundation stone of the Festspielhaus and for the purchase of the Villa Wahnfried. Four years later the Festspielhaus is opened with Rheingold. The first festival took place in 1876 in the presence of Emperor Wilhelm and all the European cultural celebrities and became Wagner’s greatest triumph of his entire life.
With the Ring and the construction of the Festspielhaus, Wagner completed his vision of the Gesamtkunstwerk: the union of the arts of music, poetry, architecture and stage design. The Festspielhaus still impresses with its excellent acoustics and view of the stage and the covered orchestra pit.
Festival Tickets must be obtained in advance over the long term. Guided tours are offered selectively.
Festival Tickets must be obtained in advance over the long term. Guided tours are offered selectively.
Teatro San Carlo:
After the Napoleanic wars, the bloody Restoration fights brought the Bourbons to power in Naples. The opera enthusiast Ferdinand II lifted the ban on gambling and the clever impresario Barbaja seized the opportunity to make the Teatro San Carlo the largest gambling house in Naples.
He brought Rossini from Venice and made him the main composer and artistic director of the Teatro San Carlo and the smaller Teatro Fondo (is today a spoken theater under the name “Mercadante”).
Once a gambling hous with an opera
While Rossini and the stars with their horrendous fees ensured full houses and attracted many rich visitors, Barbaja earned a golden nose with the guests at the gambling tables, especially the roulette, newly imported from Paris, thrilled tout Naples. Thus one must imagine the Teatro San Carlo of the year 1815 as a gambling den and restaurant with an attached theater with 2,000 seats. For the public, the opera was not a temple of musical devotion, but a busy, social place.
A splendid house
In 1816, a year after Rossini’s arrival, the San Carlo burned down and the brilliant Barbaja managed to rebuild the theater in its finest splendor within 12 months. Visit the beautiful San Carlo in an opera performance or in one of the regular guided tours, it is still worth it.
Teatro San Carlo:
View of the auditorium of the Teatro San Carlo with royal box:
When traveling to Naples, it is worth visiting the Teatro San Carlo, it is one of the most beautiful theaters in Italy, if not the world, especially the royal box is impressive. You can join a guided visit and sit in the royal box and feel like a king for a short moment.
A theatre of superlatives
Because Napoleon III was assassinated on the street during a visit to the opera, he wanted an opera house built with a protected entrance. The unknown Garnier won the architectural competition for a new grand opera and carried out the construction work. However, the work was tedious and protracted. The groundwater in particular caused great problems. In fact, there is still a lake under the opera house today, which is regularly checked by the fire brigade. This lake and an accident that occurred in the opera house gave rise to the legend of the Phantom of the Opera.
The Opera House is the largest opera house in the world in terms of square metres.
The grand staircase is particularly spectacular:
The chandelier in the auditorium weighs eight tonnes and the ceiling was redesigned by Marc Chagall in 1964:
Rossini’s Guillaume Tell at the Grand Opéra
Rossini’s most important opera for Paris, his “Guillaume Tell”, was performed in the Salle Pelletier of the Grand Opéra. This gigantic Parisian institution was the most professional opera house in the world at the time. Unfortunately, this opera house can no longer be visited, as it too suffered the fate of a devastating fire in 1873, which raged for 27 hours and completely destroyed it.
On the orders of Napoleon III, a new theatre was planned and the Palais Garnier, which is still in use today, was inaugurated two years later.
The Fire of the Grand Opéra (contemporary drawing):
A gigantic building
A gigantic building with 2,700 seats and world-class opera art. It opened in 1989 for the bicentennial of the storming of the Bastille.
The new grand opéra
Since 1990 it has been the new Grand Opéra, replacing the Palais Garnier as the “regular” opera house.
A French institution
The Opéra comique (also known as the Salle Favart) is a beautiful historic theatre, and dates back to 1898. Both of its predecessors burned down, including the premiere theatre of “Carmen”; the fire occurred in 1887 and killed around 100 people.
A visit to the opera is highly recommended, it offers a top-class programme.
Salle Choisieul / Théâtre bouffes-parisiens
The theatre where Offenbach’s CanCan was heard for the first time
Because the Salle Lacaze became too small and had the license only for smaller productions, Offenbach started to play a new theater, the Salle Choisieul, still under the brand “bouffe-parisiens”. There he achieved the fabulous success with “Orphée aux enfers”. The first work he had performed there was “Ba-ta-clan”, which with its orientalizing theme gave its name to the later Bataclan theater, but which is located elsewhere.
The theater has been changed, but it is still beautiful.
Théâtre des Varietés
Where Offenbach celebrated his greatest successes
Offenbach later left the direction of the Salle Choisieul and brought his great successes with “La Belle Hélène”, “Grande-Duchesse de Géroldstein” and “La Périchole” (all written by Meilhac and Halévy) to the Théâtre des Varietés. The great star of these productions was “the Snèder”, Hortense Schneider, whose role as the erotic Helena in “La belle Hélène” was immortalized in Emile Zola’s novel “Nana”, which was a portrait of the mores of Paris in the 60s. The “Théâtre des Varietés” served as the stage for the novel. This theater is still standing, nowadays the program includes lighter fare such as musicals.
The theatre has been changed, but it is still beautiful.
Théâtre du Châtelet:
Where Music History Was Written I – The First Modern Ballet
In 1909, musical history happened in this theater: the modern ballet was born. In the theater, opened in 1862, the Russian impresario Diaghilev presented his “Ballets russes” for the first time in Paris. The stars of the Russian Mariinsky Theater, Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova danced under the choreography of Michel Fokine. Actually, at this time, the ballet is dead, frozen in her characters.
Fokine, Dhiaghilev, Stravinsky and Nijinsky reinvent the ballet
Fokine frees it from empty pirouettes, Dhiiaghilev unites it into a total work of art of dance, music and stage design, and Nijinsky becomes the “god of dance”. Parisian audiences go crazy for the ballets and dress extravagantly for the performances like the dancers on stage. Diaghilev discovers Stravinski and commissions him to write the Firebird (“l’oiseau du feu”) for the 1910 season (for the Palais Garnier) and Petrushka in 1911 (again at the Châtelet). Stravinsky’s music hits and the 28-year-old becomes a celebrity.
The Dancer of the Firebird:
Théâtre des Champs-Élysées - The first piece of modern music
Sacré du Printemps: Stravinsky invents the music of modernity
For the 1913 season, Dhiagilev moves to the newly built Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. The piece presented is Stravinsky’s “Sacré du printemps.” Already the theme of the ballet, a ritual murder of a young woman, casts its shadow. Fokin’s choreography, Nijinsky’s shocking dance, the costumes and, above all, the never-before-heard sound of Stravinsky’s music catapult the work into the modern age. The frenzy of the audience is gigantic, opponents and supporters hoot, whistle and get into each other’s hair during the performance, which turns into the biggest “theater scandal in history”. Only the conductor keeps cold blood and conducts the work to its end. The evening is nicknamed “Massacre du printemps”.
Sacré du printemps, Original costumes:
Théâtre des Champs-Élysées:
Philharmonie de Paris
The Philharmonie, designed by Jean Nouvel, impresses with its excellent acoustics and visibility – the stage is right in the middle. The journey is a little longer, it is located in the north-eastern corner of Paris (next to it is the Musée de la musique). As in the Lucerne theatre (also designed by Jean Nouvel), the roof is accessible and offers a beautiful view.
PO VALLEY, EMILIA ROMAGNA, TOSCANA
Teatro Regio di Parma
A theatre with a tradition
The theater dates back to 1821, when it was built by Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, better known as the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, who, as a Habsburg, took over the duchy as ruler after the Congress of Vienna.
Today the company stages about four operas per season from mid-January to April
The theater is known for performances of Giuseppe Verdi’s works since Verdi himself staged his Nabucco in 1843. The Verdi Festival has been held annually since 2004.
The notoiuous loggionisti
The auditorium with 1,400 seats and four box tiers is crowned by a gallery for the loggionisti. The loggionists have a notorious reputation and have caused trouble with critical displeasure on many occasions in history. In the sixties, the famous tenor Carlo Bergonzi had to experience this himself when he allowed himself to sing a B-flat in the piano at the end of the aria “Celeste Aida”, as Verdi had prescribed, which was not to the taste of the audience. So he had to experience that the audience protested. He never entered that opera house again.
Teatro Comunale di Bologna
A beautiful theater
The beautiful theater dates back to 1763 and was opened with an opera by Gluck, who had written it for the occasion. The horseshoe-shaped hall can seat 1084 spectators.
Bologna, with its Conservatory, has always been a proud city of music and was long considered a rival to the Milanese Opera. While the latter shone with Verdi performances, Bologna was the opera that was the first in Italy to perform Wagner works. Bologna was even given the nickname “Wagner’s city” and he was even made an honorary citizen, presented to him personally on the occasion of a visit. In 1871, even Verdi sat anonymously in a box at a performance of Lohengrin.
In 1931 there was a fateful performance of a concert conducted by Arturo Toscanini. Because the highly placed minister Ciano was present, the orchestra was to play the fascist anthem “Giovinezza” and the “Marcia Reale”. Toscanini refused and he was later slapped and pushed to the ground by a black-shirted man at the artist’s entrance. This was too much for Toscanini and he decided to leave Italy for good for the United States.
Teatro Giglio Lucca
The Lucca House is a multi-scene theater in the center of Lucca. The name Giglio (lily) comes from the fleur-de-lys of the once reigning Bourbons. The Lucchese Giacomo Puccini had repeatedly supervised the adaptations of his operatic works here.
The famous performance of 1831
On the evening of September 17, 1831, an earthquake in operatic art occurred at the Teatro del Giglio in Lucca. The French tenor Gilbert Duprez sang the first C in Rossini’s William Tell from the chest, the so-called “Ut en poitrine”. Until now, the norm was to sing these top notes from the falsetto. When Rossini heard this sound for the first time, he is said to have been repulsed, saying “it sounds like the cry of a capon having its throat cut.”
Duprez’s fame grew over the next few years, and he subsequently displaced his famous rival Adolphe Nourrit as first tenor in Paris. The latter, unable to sing the C from the chest, fled to Naples, where he subsequently committed suicide.[/sc_fs_faq]
In the caricature, you can see Duprez’s distended ribcage and widened eyes when singing the high C.
Caricature of Gilbert Duprez:
Teatro Rossini Pesaro and Rossini Festival
A troubled past
The beautiful opera house of the city of Pesaro dates from 1818 and was opened with the “Gazza ladra” of his son, already famous at the time. The theater had a troubled past and was damaged twice by earthquakes, among other things. In 1966 it even became unusable and in 1980 it was renovated, which marked the beginning of the Rossini Opera Festival.
The Rossini festival
The festival quickly gained an excellent reputation and nowadays it is one of the most prestigious opera festivals. The performances take place during the summer months in the atmospheric Teatro Rossini and in other facilities.
The Teatro Rossini:
Teatro Verdi Busseto
The neat little theater (with 300 seats) was built during Verdi’s lifetime. Verdi donated 10,000 lire out of courtesy, but never entered the theater out of resentment against the people of Busseto (see excursus below on Traviata). Performances are rather rare, Toscanini even conducted here in honor of Verdi.
Book a guided tour in advance to see the beautiful theater.
PRAGUE AND CZECH REPUBLIC
National theater (narodni-divadlo) Prague
A true national theatre
The construction of the Czech National Theater was a national act, financed by donations from all over the country. The laying of the foundation stone was attended by 100,000 people, but it took an agonizing 13 years before it was opened in 1883, shortly before completion a fire raged. It is the most important musical theater in Czechoslovakia.
National theater Prague:
The premiere of the opera “Rusalka” (next to the “Bartered Bride” the most famous Czech opera) was perhaps the most glamorous moment of this house, which saw the light of day in this theater in 1901 to great acclaim. Listen to the most famous piece from this opera, the Moon Aria sung by Anna Netrebko:
The premiere of his 8th Symphony had taken place in this theater 11 years earlier.
Opened by Dvorak
In this concert hall Dvořák conducted the first performance of the newly founded Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, which originally consisted of the musicians of the National Theater. The building served as a parliament building for a few years and also houses an art museum. The large hall is named after Dvořák. The Rudolfinum features high quality classical music.
Prague State Opera
The theater opened in 1888 as the “Neues Deutsches Theater,” financed by German industrialists (not to be confused with the Estates Theater). Artistically it was run by Angelo Neumann, a great Wagner devotee, opening with the “Meistersinger”. Today, as the State Opera, it belongs to the public theaters. The building has been renovated and reopened gloriously in 2020. Tours are made possible.
Prague Estates theater (Stavovské divadlo)
Where Mozart celebrated his triumphs
In 1887 Mozart celebrated one of the greatest triumphs of his career at the Estates Theatre with the premiere of Don Giovanni. The jubilation knew no bounds when the curtain fell. As with the Nozze di figaro, the Prague audience loved him. The “Clemenza di Tito” also premiered in the Estates Theater, was well received, but the empress is said to have dismissed the work as a “German mess”.
The theater has been preserved almost in its original state and can be experienced with performances and tours. It is now part of the National Theater complex.
Estates theater around 1830:
Estates theater today:
Mahen Theater (former National theater)
The place of the first performance of Janacek’s operas
This beautiful theater, opened in 1878, was the scene of the first performances of Janacek’s operas and was then called the National Theater. The interior of the theater and the marble staircase are especially beautiful.
The theater became the first fully electrically lit theater on the European continent. An Edison light bulb from 1882 was therefore placed in a decorative copper case set into the last stone. (Today it is displayed in a glass case next to the main staircase). Edison himself visited Brno in 1911. (Source: Theater website).
The theater offers a high quality opera program.
Teatro all-opera di Roma I/II
The Roman Opera House is a renowned house that dates back to 1880. It was the venue of some world premieres such as Cavalleria rusticana, Tosca, l’amico Fritz or Iris (with Caruso). It accommodates 1700 seats and is opera and ballet performance venue.
Teatro all-opera di Roma II/II
First performance of Cavalleria rusticana
In 1890, at the Teatro Costanzi, perhaps the greatest sensation in the history of opera took place. With the presence of the music-loving Queen Margerita but in front of a half-empty hall, the premiere of the piece by the completely unknown composer Mascagni took place within the framework of Sonzogno’s competition. When the play was over, Mascagni had to step in front of the curtain sixty times and the duration of the ovation roughly corresponded to the performance time of the one-act play. The next day Mascagni was a celebrity and quickly the work began its triumphal march around the world, which it has maintained to this day.
Terme di Caracalla
Where the three tenors sang
At least since the performance of the “three tenors” (Pavarotti, Domingo, Carreras) in 1992 in the Roman thermae, people know this open-air venue. In these historical thermae, open-air concerts and operas are performed during the summer. The stage and seating capacity are very large.
Premiere of “Barbiere di Siviglia”
The Argentina had the honor of having been the stage for one of the most famous premieres in the history of opera, the tumult of the February 20 premiere of “Barbiere” became a legend. More about this in the digression below.
This theater is located on the site where once was the huge theater of Pompey, where Julius Caesar was killed in 44 BC. The Teatro Argentina was built in the 18th century and still stands in the splendor of the 19th century, and in modern times it is the site of musical and spoken theater and belongs to the Teatri di Roma.
Grosses Festspielhaus (Great Festival Hall)
Once were there horse stalls
The Festspielhaus is an opera and concert stage and the main venue of the Salzburg Festival. It was built from the Marstall (the former archbishop’s horse stables), whose facade was largely left as it was. In order to achieve the necessary volume for the 2200 seats, the stage and technology, it was built deep into the Mönchsberg. The Festspielhaus was financed by the Austrian government and belongs to the Austrian state.
The main venue of the festival
It was opened in 1960 with an opera performance of Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier, thus honoring the three important founding personalities of the Festival Richard Strauss (composer), Hugo von Hoffmannsthal (librettist) and Max Reinhart (unofficial director of the premiere). Conductor was Herbert von Karajan, the driving force behind the Salzburg Festival after the war, who, among other things, established the Vienna Philharmonic as the house orchestra as director of the Vienna State Opera.
Guided tours are available.
A spectacular venue
Dating from the late 17th century, this spectacular performance venue was originally a riding school. The eye-catching arcades with 96 openings were cut into the former quarry and served as spectator stands for regular animal hunts, and are three stories high.
A mobile roof
The Felsenreitschule is an open-air stage; plays were first performed here as part of the festival, and Karajan used it as an opera venue for the first time in 1948 for Gluck’s Orfeo. With the reconstruction at the end of the sixties, a retractable rain cover was added, which could close off the stage in convertible style when it rained, but its pattering noise had a negative impact.
In 2011, the new roof was inaugurated, which solved the pattering noise problem. However, it remains open in winter because it cannot support the snow loads.
The theater has a 40-meter-wide stage and 1430 seats. Guided tours are available.
Mariinsky Theater St. Petersburg
The Mariinsky was called Kirov during the Soviet period and has returned to its old name. Still this theater shines with ballet and opera performances at the highest level.
Where many of Tchaikovsky’s ballets were premiered
The Mariinsky Theater was an important theater for Tchaikovsky; he premiered significant works there, such as The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Queen of Spades.
Where Mussorgsky had his greatest triumph
The Mariinsky Theater was built in 1860 and, along with the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, is one of Russia’s two musical beacons for ballet, classical music and opera. The theater was the site of the 1874 premiere of Mussorgsky’s most important work. The conservative management of the Mariinsky Theater twice refused the premiere of “Boris Godunov.” On the third try, it worked, and it became the greatest triumph of his life, with 20 sold-out and acclaimed performances.
It is worth taking a tour of the beautiful Mariinsky Theater.
St. Petersburg Philharmonic
Where Shoshakovich’s Leningrad Symphony was performed in 1942
The so-called Leningrad Symphony was performed in this hall on August 9, 1942. In this theater, the concert season traditionally begins with a performance of the 7th Symphony.
(You can get the history of the symphony from the biographical section on Shoshakovich above).
Hall of the Philharmonic:
Glinka Chapel Choir
Glinka was for a time the leader of the Imperial Court Chapel, a choir at the solde of the Tsar and the oldest professional choir in Russia. In 1838, he traveled to Ukraine and recruited 20 singers for the choir. Rimsky-Korsakoff was one of his successors and still today this choir enjoys a high reputation. The Academic Chapel is one of the oldest concert halls in St. Petersburg and is famous for its acoustics.
Opera House Zurich I/III
Zurich Opera House is a theater with a focus on opera and ballet. It has a permanent ensemble and repertory theater with about a dozen new productions per year.
Opera House Zurich II/III
Renowned Opera House
In the predecessor building of the present theater, the so-called Aktientheater, Richard Wagner had conducted several times during his stay in Zurich. Highlights were his exemplary production of the “Flying Dutchman” in 1852 and the small Wagner Festival in 1853.
New construction of a theater
After the fire of the Aktientheater, a new large theater was built, whose construction plans came from a Viennese office. Since the same construction plans were used to build opera houses in Zagreb and Wiesbaden, this opera house exists in 3 identical designs.
Important first performances
The world premiere of “Lulu” by the already deceased Alban Berg took place in this theater in 1937. Hitler had forbidden the first performance in Germany. A year later, the opera “Mathis der Maler” by Paul Hindemith, who had emigrated to Switzerland, was also performed. Finally, the posthumous premiere of Schoenberg’s “Moses und Aaron” also took place.
Opera House Zurich III/III
The rediscovery of a composer at the Zurich Opera House
The rediscovery of a composer at the Zurich Opera House.
In 1954, L’incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi was staged in Vienna under the direction of Paul Hindemith with partially reconstructed instruments. Nicolaus Harnoncourt sat in the orchestra. The latter, together with Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, recorded a sensational Monteverdi cycle at the Zurich Opera House in the 1970s on period instruments and with Baroque richness of décor. This Zurich cycle ushered in a veritable Monteverdi renaissance and became a legend.
The KKL is home to the renowned Lucerne Festival.
The KKL is built directly on the shores of Lake Lucerne and features captivating architecture designed by Jean Nouvel. An attractive terrace on top of the building opens up views of the lake and the old town.
The main concert hall, designed in the shape of a ship’s hull, has electrically adjustable sound chambers.
The dimensions of the hall were defined according to the so-called shoebox principle, where the height of the hall is determined by the sum of the height and width (22m:22m:46m).
Other concert halls and opera houses in Switzerland.
Opera House Basel: The opera house has repeatedly received prestigious awards in German-speaking countries for productions and overall opera output
Opera House Bern: Here, concert and opera have been brought together.
Grand Théâtre Genève: Another opera house with supra-regional appeal.
Hoftheater (today: National Theater) Weimar
Liszt’s most important place of activity in Weimar
Goethe had taken charge of the court theater in 1791 and, together with Schiller, led it to flourish. Later Maria Pavlovna, wife of Grand Duke Carl Friedrich of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach developed it into a musical theater and hired Franz Liszt as court conductor in 1842. The theater subsequently became an important cultural center. In the early 20th century, a new theater building was constructed on the same site.
The old court theater:
It became the premiere venue of Humperdinck’s “Hänsel und Gretel” in 1893, by none other than Richard Strauss, who was temporarily Kapellmeister in Weimar and also presented some symphonic poems here for the first time.
National Theater Weimar:
Meiningen Court Theater (today: State Theater)
The orchestra had a reputation in the late 19th century as perhaps the finest orchestra in Germany. An illustrious series of musical directors (von Bülow, Strauss, Max Reger) led the court orchestra.
The Meiningen Hofkapelle resumed its original name in 2006; the original theater had burned down in 1908 and was replaced by a new building, with renovations in 2011 restoring the original facade. The premiere of Brahm’s 4th symphony took place here.
The high-level theater offers both concerts and musical theater.
Meininger State Theater:.
Two of Puccini’s outstanding operas had their world premieres at the Teatro Region. Manon Lescaut became a great success (conducted by Toscanini) and Puccini was unanimously accepted by the public and the critics in the first guard of contemporary composers. The “Bohème” became a bone of contention, heavily applauded by the public but hostile to the Wagnerian press.
The fire and the beautiful new theater
The opera house, which dated back to the Baroque period, burned down in 1936; short circuits ignited the cables, which quickly set the wooden beams ablaze. It took until 1973 for a modern, beautiful theater to be built.
All that remains of the original building is the historic 18th century façade, which has a portico. It forms part of the Savoy Residences, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
The new Teatro Regio was inaugurated on April 10, 1973 by the then President Giovanni Leone with Giuseppe Verdi’s opera I vespri siciliani, directed by Maria Callas and Giuseppe Di Stefano.
Today, just over a dozen productions are performed each year. The theater is mainly an opera and ballet venue.
Teatro la Fenice I/IV
The Fenice has a glamorous past. Premieres by Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi (including Rigoletto, La traviata and Simon Boccanegra), Rossini and Meyerbeer testify to the importance of Venetian theater.
The theater experienced a glamorous resurgence with the Biennale after World War II. Commissioned works led to premieres by Stravinsky, Berio, Prokoffiev and Britten made the Fenice an important artistic center.
Teatro la Fenice:
Teatro la Fenice II/IV
The theater was destroyed in 1997 by a fire intentionally set by workmen. Actually, the fire was supposed to be localized, but since the canals were drained for renovation, the fire department could not arrive fast enough. It was rebuilt true to the original and ceremoniously reopened in 2004 with the Traviata.
Teatro la Fenice III/IV
The facade is the only element that survived the two great fires of 1836 and 1997. The firebird, Phoenix, which made the theater rise again from the ashes after the destruction caused by the fire in 1837, is immortalized on the insignia of the theater and gave its name to the theater. The achievement was gigantic, the theater was reopened only a year after the fire on the 13th of December!
Teatro la Fenice IV/IV
The opera house is magnificently decorated, particularly interesting is the design of the ceiling, which is straight, but through the painter’s work creates the impression of a vaulted space.
The orchestra pit is retractable, allowing a few more rows of seating for concerts.
Basilica San Marco
In his function as Kapellmeister, Monteverdi took special care of the choirs. The excellent acoustics of St. Mark’s Cathedral allowed the choirs to be placed in the room. Listen to the beautiful hymn “Ave maris stella” from the Marian Vespers from Gardiner’s brilliant recording from St. Mark’s Cathedral in 1990.
If you have the opportunity to listen to music in St. Mark’s Basilica, take it.
Arena di Verona
The amphitheater of Verona is the third largest well-preserved amphitheater ever, next to the Colosseum in Rome and the Arena in Capus. Originally it could seat over 30,000 spectators, but for redimensioning and safety reasons 15,000 spectators are still allowed today. It has 45 tiers of steps and is 24 meters high.
Originally it served as a gladiatorial arena and for competitions. With time its importance decreased and it became a quarry for the growing city. Of the outer ring, only 4 of the original 72 arches remain. Napoleon Bonaparte visited the arena twice in the early 19th century for bullfights
It was first used for operas in the mid-19th century, but it was not until 1913 that a tradition as an opera venue began to develop with the performance of Aida on Verdi’s 100th birthday. Especially after the Second World War, the arena popularized with performances of Callas, Corelli, Nilsson, etc. and became a great festival venue.
The acoustics are excellent and they still generally do without microphones for singers and orchestra. The productions are rather conservative and overwhelm with mass scenes, decoration and often the use of live animals. Opera performances take place during the summer months.
Vienna State Opera I/III
The tragic beginning
The building of the State Opera (then called “Court Opera”) dates back to 1869. The history of this traditional house began tragically, as the two architects did not live to see the first performance. One of them, von der Nüll, hanged himself (though already seriously ill) after criticism of the design from the public and the emperor (who financed the construction). August von Sicardsburg died 10 weeks later of a heart attack.
Destruction and renovation
On March 12, 1945, the house was destroyed after a bomb hit it. Only the porch and parts of the entrance wing remained intact. The renovation and fund raising took a lot of time. The renovation was used as an opportunity and a lot of wood was used to perfect the acoustics. The opening in 1955 became the first Austrian live television broadcast, although there were less than 1000 receivers at the time.
The opera house holds 2,300 seats (including 500 standing) and employs nearly 1,000 people. It operates a repertory business with 50 productions annually, which, during 10 months are given almost daily (including concerts and ballet).
Vienna State Opera II/III
Gustav Mahler’s reforms
One of the most glorious eras of the State Opera was that of Gustav Mahler, whose Viennese reforms brought drastic changes to the opera world. Instead of ramp singing, theater was now the order of the day, with Mahler immediately appointing himself director. Secondly, opulent painted stage sets were replaced by décor. Alfred Roller became the congenial stage designer. However, Mahler, who took over in 1897, always faced great criticism from the traditionalists, which was probably due to rampant anti-Semitism.
Mahler marked the beginning of the era of musical personalities with leadership functions, associated, for example, with the name of Richard Strauss after World War I and Herbert von Karajan after World War II. The latter fundamentally changed the artistic work by moving from ensemble operation to star operation (meaning that leading roles were more often sung by guests).
The Mahler period was one of the absolute glories of the State Opera, and the Viennese honored him with one of Rodin’s busts, which today stands in the so-called Schwind Foyer (it is a replica, the original was melted down during World War II).
Mahler bust in the State Opera House:
Mahler was in Rodin’s studio a dozen times. Rodin then created two versions of busts, one naturalistic and one artistic. There are various casts of both versions. There are 5 original casts of the lifelike one, one of which is in the Vienna Upper Belvedere (Alma Mahler’s personal bust). The original casts are in the Rodin Museum in Paris.
Rodin’s two versions:
Theater an der Wien I/III
Mozart: the beginnings with the Magic flute
The Theater an der Wien, on the left bank of the Wienzeile, was opened by Schikaneder in 1787 as a provisional venue and was the site of the first performance of The Magic Flute. Mozart began work on The Magic Flute in the spring of 1791, interrupting it in July to write La clemenza di Tito in a short time, and then completed The Magic Flute within a few weeks in September 1791. The premiere took place on September 30 in Schikaneder’s Theater auf der Wieden. His sister-in-law Josepha Hofer sang the Queen, Mozart conducted and Schikaneder played Papageno. “The Magic Flute” was a great success and was given twenty times in the same season. Mozart attended many performances in October and was pleased that after a long time he could again celebrate an audience success with a work. By November he was already ill in bed and he died on December 5.
The Papageno Gate
In 1801, the modern theater designed in the Empire style was opened after only 13 months of construction. On the Millöckergasse side, Schikaneder, as librettist, patron and Papageno of the premiere, created a monument to this opera with the Papageno Gate. It shows stone figures of a scene with Papageno, Tamino and the three boys and stands above the old entrance.
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Picture of the Theater an der Wien around 1920:
Theater an der Wien II/III
Beethoven: The premiere of “Fidelio” and the famous academy with the premiere of his fifth
The Theater an der Wien played a tremendously important role in Beethoven’s time and was, along with the Kärtnertormuseum (demolished in the meantime), the most important music theater in Vienna. Here his Fidelio was premiered (a commemorative plaque reminds us of this) and on the other hand and in this theater his famous Academy (concert) of 1808 took place. Beethoven had been working towards this academy for a long time, expecting it to be his main source of income for years. He presented on this evening a four-hour monster program (usual at that time) among other things with the premieres of his fourth piano concerto as well as his fifth and sixth symphonies! But bad luck stuck to his shoes on this December 22nd; on the one hand, the hall was unheated and the orchestra consisted largely of amateurs, as the original orchestra was engaged on the other. The ticket prices corresponded to a week’s wages of a worker and the hall was therefore not sold out.
Theater an der Wien:
Theater an der Wien III/III
Lehar: The premiere of “The Merry Widow”
In 1901, the Hungarian-born Wilhelm Karzcag leased the Theater an der Wien to make it the center of a new Viennese operetta. Lehàr was able to celebrate his first success there in 1902 with “Wiener Fraun”. For the 1905/06 season, Victor Léon and Leo Stein wrote the libretto of “The Merry Widow” but were not satisfied with the music of the commissioned composer and offered Lehàr the job. Lehàr accepted and set to work. Because an operetta had flopped, Karzcag was determined to bring the Merry Widow forward. He had the music played for him in Lehár’s apartment.
The famous sentence
Disgusted by Lehár’s product, he is said to have exclaimed the famous sentence: “That’s not music!” Stein and Léon, however, were able to convince him otherwise, and the work was staged head over heels. All the stage material was cobbled together from existing productions and the musicians could only be allowed a few stage rehearsals. Despite a lot of improvisation, the premiere was already satisfactory and, to Karzcag’s surprise, audience reception was good from the start and the operetta quickly became a box office hit.
In 2006, the theater was renovated and serves as the third opera house of the city of Vienna.
Volksoper (Opera of the people)
Along with the Theater an der Wien and the State Opera, the Volksoper is a third opera theater with a high quality of music. The building dates back to the end of the 19th century and was planned as a counterpart to the State Opera, with affordable tickets, German-language performances and the staging of operettas that are not shown at the State Opera (the only exception is made for Die Fledermaus).
The theater is now a state institution and hosts opera, musical, operetta and ballet.
This concert hall has existed since 1913 and is the home of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. It is characterized by the inclusion of jazz and modern music in the repertoire.
The Vienna Boys’ Choir still sings in the Hofmusikkapelle every Sunday (except July/August). Tickets can be purchased.
Hofmusikkapelle (Court chapel)
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Other venues (masses, organ concerts):
Wroclaw Opera House
The opera in Wroclaw was once artistically directed by the young Carl Maria von Weber:
Carl Maria von Weber came to Wroclaw in 1804. The city had approached Abbé Vogler, Weber’s teacher, for a recommendation to fill the position of Kapellmeister, and he had recommended his 17-year-old pupil. When Weber first stood before the large orchestra, the hostility was palpable. When the young schnoz took pleasure in throwing out older musicians to raise the level, purged the program of overly light pieces, and changed the seating arrangement of the orchestra, fire was under the roof. Weber’s work was highly respected artistically, but the parties could never put aside the petty warfare. So after 2 years it was over and the theater management stated: “We lose in the former a genius who has done much for our opera.”
The theater building of the time of Carl Maria von Weber is no longer standing, it was replaced in 1854 by an opera house, which was last renovated after the floods in 1997 and is in great shape. It has excellent acoustics.
Wroclaw Opera House: