Buildings are empty spaces before they are filled with music and arts, but some of the most beautiful opera houses in the world can be stared at for hours just for how beautiful they are, this is my selection of the best five.
La Scala (Milán)
Well, I can´t help but love Italian opera music and in that sense, La Scala is where most of them made their name. The building itself was founded in 1778 and built by Giuseppe Piermanini, the Royal Architect of the Kingdom that we know as Italy today. He was a neoclassical and it really shows. The Scala is magnificent because it was the home of most of Verdi´s rising and saw most of his plays until his death. Tickets for shows usually go on sale with two months of anticipation but are sold out in the same day, so, to be honest, I have never seen a proper opera sitting inside of it, but I did go to the museum where original libretto and musical writings are stored along with costumes and all sorts of articles related to the great Italian masters. La Scala is underwent some heavy restoration work between 2002 and 2004 by Mario Botta, another Italian architect who preserved the revolutionary (by the moment) concave channel under the wooden floor of the orchestra, which is the key of the theatre’s superb acoustics.
Germans have some of the greatest musicians of all times on their side, but Austria is the true opera capital of that part of Europe. The opera house in Vienna is not as old as La Scala, it was built in 1869, it isn’t entirely original either, because it was almost completely destroyed on March 12, 1945 by the Allies during a bombing on World War II, but is one of the most important venues in the world. It is built as a neo-renaissance building, which means that it is very ornamented with lots of detail and frescoes. The façade, the main stairway and the foyer remained untouched while the rest was rebuilt as to match the original with some 1950s modernization, especially in terms of acoustic. The venue sounds completely amazing, and it has since it was reopened in 1955 with Fidelio by Beethoven as an ode to freedom.
The Bolshoi (Moscow)
I also have a heart for Russians, especially for the great Tchaikovski. If you´ve ever been to Russia, you know that the weather is a complex factor, it can be really harsh (much more than what one would think). That being said, let´s travel in time a little bit to 1776 and think about the cold weather then. Amazing, right? I think so. Once you get to the doorstep, Roman columns with Apollo on his chariot welcome you, because the main architect was Russian-Italian. The structure is huge, I was lucky enough to go after the big makeover on 2011 and it sounded completely amazing; the Bolshoi Orchestra is top five in Europe and I would say the world, so coupled with the state-of-the-art equipment recently installed, it is a dream come true.
Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires)
It took almost twenty years to build, but when it was finally ready, this amazing opera house was spectacular. Yes, believe it or not, Argentinians have a world-class stage despite not having a strong opera tradition. It was Pavarotti who said that the only flaw this venue had was that acoustics were so perfect that any minimal mistake could be heard by the entire audience, and he was not mistaking, it is considered one of the best five acoustic venues in the world. I happened to be there while on holidays and heard about the Colón, so I took the guided visit. I couldn´t believe my eyes, large marble columns with a mix of glass, stainless steel, gold and Venetian mosaics make the building absolutely beautiful. The tour took us to the main stage to clap or speak and Pavarotti was completely right, it´s amazing. Besides that, the edifice features scenic and custom building departments. If you happen to be there anytime, it is a complete must.
Sydney Opera House (Sydney)
Built to look like shells and sails overlapping, designed by Danish architect JørnUtzon is completely iconic and utterly beautiful from the outside as well as from the inside. The venue´s main room features many wooden panels to enhance different tonalities, like bass or treble. It has become a symbol of the modern opera with a case similar to Argentina: it is a country with little or no opera tradition that spent millions of dollars in a structure to perform it. I personally think it´s really healthy to the music world that the classical way of playing operas is not only maintained but also fostered among countries that are still young in its tradition. Thumbs up!