An opera is an art form that involves singing and drama. Its roots can be traced back to the 16th century in Europe, particularly Italy. The word opera means ‘labour’ and ‘work’. Operas are performed in opera theatres known as opera houses. Opera house is a place where art and culture are celebrated. It reflects the architecture and traditional values of the city. Some of the great opera houses can still be found in Europe. Here are fifteen examples of exquisite opera houses around the globe. 

1. Palais Garnier, Paris, France

Palais Garnier is a realm of magnificent architecture, art, music, painting, and sculpture. It was designed by French architect Charles Garnier and was inaugurated in the year 1875. With a capacity of 2200 audience and 450 performers, this structure is a combination of Neo-Baroque and Beaux-Arts. The ceiling of the theatre holds a seven-ton crystal chandelier with a 220 sq.m monumental painting by Marc Chagal.  

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Palais Garnier_©wikimedia commons
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Palais Garnier_©wikimedia commons

2. Margravial Opera House, Bayreuth, Germany

An exquisite piece of baroque theatre architecture. It was designed by architect Giuseppe Galli Bibiena and was completed in 1750. With the capacity of 500 audiences, the bell-shaped auditorium still preserves the original materials – wood and canvas that retain the original acoustic quality. As an example of a unique monument of the 18th century, it was inscribed by UNESCO on the list of the world cultural heritage of humanity. 

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Margravial Opera House_©wikimedia commons
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Margravial Opera house_©Bavarian Departments

3. Hungarian State Opera, Budapest, Hungary

Designed by renowned European architects Miklós Ybl, the structure is a symbol of Hungarian classical music culture. It was built in neo-Renaissance style and integrated with elements of Baroque. With a capacity of around 1200 and 1300 extra seats, the auditorium is considered to be one of the finest opera houses in terms of acoustic qualities. The auditorium is designed in a horse-shoe shape with the royal box in the middle of a three-tiered structure.

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Hungary State opera_©wikimedia commons
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Hungary Opera_©wikimedia commons

4. Estates Theatre, Prague, Czech Republic

The Estates Theatre is the oldest in Prague, inaugurated in the year 1783. It was designed by Anton Haffenecker in classic architecture style. With a capacity of 986 seats, the auditorium is a classic combination of blue, gold, and white. 

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Estates Theatre_©prague.eu
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Estates Theatre_©www.narodni-divaldo.cz

5. La Scala, Milan, Italy

La Scala was designed by a renowned neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini and inaugurated in the year 1778. It was built with a neo-classical facade with columns, pediments, pilasters, and classic geometric ratios. In 1943, the opera house was severely damaged by bombing during World War II. It was rebuilt and reopened on 11 May 1946. Today it is a world-famous Italian opera that has set a benchmark for European performing arts.

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La Scala_©Getty
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La Scala_©Getty

6. Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, Russia

Bolshoi Theatre holds a record for being the second-largest opera in Europe. It was designed by neoclassical architect Joseph Bové and inaugurated in the year 1824. The structure celebrates the glory of classical Russian architecture along with ballet and opera. 

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Bolshoi theatre_©trip.com
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Bolshoi Theatre_©dreamstime.com

7. Harbin Opera House, China

Harbin Opera house was designed by the Chinese architect agency MAD architects as a part of Harbin Cultural Island. This is a multi-venue performing art center inaugurated in the year 2015. The sinuous architectural style responds to the regional context. The structure perfectly blends with the natural topography. The structure enhances the experience of the visitor by giving them scope for exploration. The structure includes a theatre with 1600 capacity and a small theatre with a capacity of 400. 

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Harbin Opera House_©Adam Mork
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Harbin Opera House_©Adam Mork

8. Teatro la Fenice, Venice, Italy

Teatro La Fenice, also known as Phoenix, is one of the most famous landmarks in the history of Italian theatre. The structure has witnessed three tragic fire accidents, but as the name reflects, each time it managed to rise from the ashes, just like the mythical bird Phoenix.  

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Teatro La Fenice_©wikimedia commons
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La Fenice_©wikiwand

9. Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Valencia, Spain

This opera house has marked an urban landmark in Spain. It was designed by architect Santiago Calatrava and inaugurated in the year 2005. The structure is a series of volumes connected with the enclosure of two concrete shells. With a capacity of 1420 seats, the auditorium is used for opera as well as ballet.  

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Palacio de las Artes_©Palladium designs
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Palacio de las Artes_©Alan Karchmer

10. Sydney Opera House, Australia

The opera house is the most renowned landmark in Sydney. Designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, the structure was inaugurated in 1973. The structure comprises two performing art halls and a restaurant. Each hall is covered with a row of sail-shaped interlocking panels that serve as the roof as well as the wall. The opera house is listed among the UNESCO world heritage list. 

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Sydney Opera House_©Micheal Hynes
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Sydney Opera House Concert Hall_©wikimedia commons

11. Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Inaugurated on the 25th of May in 1908, Teatro Colon is best known for its acoustical quality and heritage value. Three architects were working on this design, as a result, we can see a variety of Italian and French influences. With a capacity of 2487 seats, the design is an example of academic eclecticism. 

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Teatro Colon_©wikimedia commons
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Teatro Colon_©wikimedia commons

12. The Royal Opera House, London, England

The Royal Opera House is a performing arts building in the Covent Garden district of London. The Royal Opera House was rebuilt in the year 1858 after the previous building burnt down. It houses the Royal opera, ballet, and orchestra. The structure is considered an important landmark in the cultural history of England. 

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Royal Opera house_ ©dreamstime
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Royal Opera house_©Canetty Clarke

13. Vienna State Opera, Vienna, Austria

With a capacity of 1709 seats, the Vienna state opera was inaugurated in the year 1869. The structure was planned by the Viennese architect August Sicard von Sicardsburg and the interior was designed by Eduard van der Null. During World War II the structure was destroyed by bombs. In November 1955, the Vienna State Opera was reopened with a new auditorium, equipped with new technology, stunning ornamentations, and beautiful ceiling paintings. 

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Vienna State Opera_©wikimedia commons
Vienna State Opera_©dreamstime

14. Royal Swedish Opera, Stockholm, Sweden

The Royal Swedish Opera House was founded by King Gustav III, in the year 1773. It was designed by architect Axel Johan Anderberg. With a capacity of 1200 seats, the structure resembles the Art Noveau architectural style.  

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Royal Swedish Opera house_©wikiwand
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Royal Swedish Opera house_©smashingpicture.com

15. The Metropolitan Opera (Lincoln Center), New York City, USA

With a capacity of 3995 seats, the Metropolitan opera house sets the world record for the largest capacity opera house.  It was designed by the architects Wallace Harrison and Max Abramovitz. This opera house is home to the New York City ballet, opera, and philharmonic. It was founded in the year 1880, with a combination of modernism and classic architectural styles. 

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Metropolitan Opera House_© Jonatha Tichler
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Metropolitan Opera House Auditorium_©Jonathan Tichler

References: 

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Available at – https://www.archdaily.com/105785/ad-classics-paris-opera-charles-garnier?ad_source=search&ad_medium=projects_tab 

  1. Lisa Buros-Hutchins (2014). Palais Garnier: Paris’s exquisite opera house [online] 

Available at – https://www.yourworldexperience.com/blog-posts/palais-garnier

  1. UNESCO World Heritage list. Margravial Opera House Bayreuth [online]

Available at – https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1379/ 

  1. Opera (2021). The auditorium [online]  

Available at – https://www.opera.hu/en/v/the-auditorium/ 

  1. Hisour. Hungarian State Opera, Budapest, Hungary [online]

Available at – https://www.hisour.com/hungarian-state-opera-budapest-hungary-18708/ 

  1. Tours.Prague. The Estates Theatre [online]

Available at – https://www.tours-prague.eu/prague-the-estates-theatre.phtml 

  1. Classic FM. Facts about La Scala [online]

Available at – https://www.classicfm.com/radio/shows-presenters/everything-you-ever-wanted-know/facts-la-scala/ 

  1. Holidify. Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow [online] 

Available at – https://www.holidify.com/places/moscow/bolshoi-theatre-sightseeing-11061.html 

  1. ArchDaily. Harbin Opera House. [online] 

Available at – https://www.archdaily.com/778933/harbin-opera-house-mad-architects

  1. Images of Venice. Teatro La Fenice. [online]

Available at – https://imagesofvenice.com/teatro-la-fenice-the-phoenix/ 

  1. ArchDaily(2019). Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia / Santiago Calatrava

      Available at – https://www.archdaily.com/909673/palau-de-les-arts-reina-sofia-santiago-calatrava

  1. UNESCO World Heritage list. Sydney Opera House [online]

Available at – https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/166/  

  1. WikiArchitectura. Colon Theatre [online] 

Available at – https://en.wikiarquitectura.com/building/colon-theater/ 

  1. Bruce Tucker (2021). The theater seat store. Opera theater. [online]

Available at- https://www.theaterseatstore.com/blog/opera-theater 

  1. Private Prague Guide. The Vienna State Opera. [online]

Available at – https://www.private-prague-guide.com/article/the-vienna-state-opera/ 

  1. Untapped New York. The top 15 secrets of NYC’s Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln center

Available at – https://untappedcities.com/2017/12/19/the-top-15-secrets-of-nycs-metropolitan-opera-at-lincoln-center/ 

 

Author

An aspiring architect, explorer, and a vivid reader. Mrunal believes that every space has its own story. Taking writing as her medium she wants to narrate the unheard architectural stories to the world.

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