When it comes to travel, there is only so much you can fit in with one go. With our constantly connected lifestyles, shorter retreats with tightly packed schedules are becoming more in vogue as we leave the days of the lavish, month-long holiday in the past. In light of this, we’ve broken down a list of the world’s best opera houses by specific appeal, so you can prioritize your travels based on your interests.
Teatro alla Scala
This may be the most prestigious opera house to grace our list, and with good reason. Opened in 1778, this Milanese theater offers some of the finest acoustics in the world, with a sound that—despite renovation in 2002–2004—is ultimately unmatched. Apart from its renowned reverberations, its exhaustive lineup presents some of the most remarkable opera singers and composers in the world. The 2016–2017 lineup includes Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Mozart’s Don Giovanni, among others.
New York, NY
In addition to its exceptional sound quality and technologically advanced stage, the Met is recognized for fostering burgeoning young talent, including revered names like Thomas Adès. Since 1883, singers who have graced the stage include Christine Nilsson, Marcella Sembrich, Lilli Lehmann and Nellie Melba.
Royal Opera of Versailles
Any of the opera houses on this list are spellbinding places to enjoy a performance. But few are worthy of standout praise for their preservation of ancient features. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better example than the Royal Opera of Versailles, which was designed by the famed French architect, Ange-Jacques Gabriel. The 18th-century theater features ornate sculptures made entirely from wood, and its pale blue curtains and upholstery provide a delicate accent.
Margravial Opera House
Original artwork lines the walls of this Baroque opera house, one of the last remaining from this iconic period. Designed by Giuseppe Galli Bibiena, the Margravial Opera House features a sandstone façade and a perfectly preserved interior, also including a hand-painted ceiling portrait of Apollo. It’s no surprise that this classic piece of Baroque architecture is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Teatro di San Carlo
Envision yourself taking in the works of Rossini at the oldest opera house in the world. With its classic stage, grandiose size and impeccable architecture, the Teatro di San Carlo, which opened in 1737, was the blueprint from which all opera houses in Europe were modeled after. Points of historical significance include its original exterior walls (the rest of the theater burned down in a fire in 1816, then restored nine months later) and royal boxes, where King Charles VII of Bourbon once sat.
The Royal Opera House
History buffs will delight at the sight of this resilient theater, which experienced two fires in its lifetime. Though the first two buildings completely perished, the third building, with a classical portico, remains standing since 1858. Guided theater tours provide detailed accounts of the many famous actors who have performed in the classic venue, including Shakespearean actors William Charles Macready and Edmund Kean.
It can be difficult to find time for enough art, music, and history on your next trip to Italy or France. Luckily, a visit to any of these opera houses provides opportunities for enjoying all of these passions at once.