PHOTOS: 13 of the World’s Most Spectacular Theaters
Some theaters are showstoppers before the show even starts. The architecture and interior design can supply plenty of spectacle and splendor independent of the dramas unfolding onstage.
Amazing Theaters of the World (Amber Books Ltd; $29.99) raises the curtain on more than 150 performing arts venues that fit that bill. Scores of sumptuous photographs spotlight ancient amphitheaters, Baroque opera houses, ultramodern concert halls, and other stunning spaces for plays, music, and dance in North and South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia.
Text by journalist Dominic Connolly and an introduction by the award-winning lyricist Sir Tim Rice reveal behind-the-scenes details on each venue and offer historical context on differing approaches to performance across epochs and continents.
Below, we're showcasing 13 of the most impressive theaters featured in the book, along with captions provided by the publisher. Each locale is worth adding to a vacation's call sheet, whether to see a performance or take a guided backstage tour (if available).
Please silence your cell phone now.
Pictured above: Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Ukraine
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "The site for this ornate edifice is a former salt works on the banks of the River Vltava. The land was purchased by a group of patriotic Czechs in 1852, after they had spent eight years raising funds. Another three decades passed before the theater opened in the form we see today, after a fire in 1881 hampered its progress by another two years."
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "The current building was inaugurated in 1908 and took 18 years to construct. Its foundation stone was placed in 1890, with the intention that the opera house would be finished in 1892. The theater produces its shows from scratch, from workshops located in the basement."
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "The Roman Theatre in this city in the south of the country was unearthed in 1988 during construction work. In the 3rd century, a market had been built on top of the site, reusing its materials; in the 13th century, Cartagena’s Old Cathedral was laid over part of the seating section. A restoration was completed in 2003 and performances are held there today."
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "The 2016 building here is dhow-shaped in a nod to the area’s maritime past. The interior can transform from a theater to a concert hall to a 'flat floor' event or banqueting space. The rooftop restaurant has views of the Dubai Fountain and the Burj Khalifa. The auditorium can seat up to 2,000 people."
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "This art nouveau concert hall was constructed by modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner between 1905 and 1908. The auditorium is the only one in Europe that is completely lit by natural light in the daytime, being made up on two sides by stained glass windows. Above that, the gold and blue of the glass dome suggests, appropriately, the sun and sky."
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "This landmark contains not just the country’s National Theatre but its National Museum of Architecture, halls for sculpture and paintings, and murals by the likes of Diego Rivera. The building was completed in 1934, having been commissioned in 1910 to celebrate the centenary of Mexico’s independence from Spain. The deadline was missed by 13 years."
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "The ultimate in opulence, this grand theater was built between 1862 and 1875 at the behest of Emperor Napoleon III. The auditorium, which features 20th-century ceiling designs by Marc Chagall, was constructed in a horseshoe shape so the audience could see and be seen. Opéra Garnier is also the setting for The Phantom of the Opera.
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "Clad entirely in aluminium panels, this venue is designed to appear to the naked eye as consisting entirely of swoops and swirls. Harbin, in the northeast province of Heilongjiang, is a UNESCO-listed 'Music City' where China’s first orchestra was established. The Grand Theare encompasses several performance spaces."
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "Re-creating World War II's Battle of Stalingrad—with mini tanks advancing to the strains of Shostakovich—is one of the feats attempted by this marionette house. The theater, located in the old town of the Georgian capital, was the brainchild of artist Revaz 'Rezo' Gabriadze, who turned to puppets to express himself under the strictures of the Soviet Union."
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "Locals have dubbed this arts center 'the Durian' for its two rounded glass domes resembling that spiky fruit native to the area. The space features the 1,600-seat Concert Hall, where the Singapore Symphony Orchestra regularly performs. The complex opened in 2002, having taken six years to build."
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "Each summer, the Bregenz Festival presents al fresco opera on the water opposite the city of the same name. Structures on the floating stage have included a tower for Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman and a giant eye for Puccini’s Tosca, a production that was featured in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace. Audiences for the shows number up to 7,000."
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "Across the River Thames from the West End stands a theater that has become known by its nickname rather than its original title. Christened the Royal Coburg Theatre in 1818, the place was renamed in 1833 as the Royal Victoria—informally shortened to The Old Vic not long after. When Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean ventured 'south of the river' to appear onstage here, he said: 'I have never acted to such a set of ignorant, unmitigated brutes as I see before me.'"
From Amazing Theaters of the World: "Building one of the most recognizable structures in the world wasn't without its challenges. In fact, architect Jørn Utzon left Australia midway through construction—never to return to see the project completed—after the Dane fell out with the Minister for Public Works, Davis Hughes. Construction had begun in 1959 and the opera house was finally opened in 1973."