Opera has a special place in history, a mixture of musical expression and political intrigue, nationalist architectural projects and celebrity performances. Opera has been at the centre of more than one military dispute, whether due isolationist fears about its influence or the simple fact that the opera hosted most assassinations attempts. Opera houses are often national attractions, even when empty, and to this day the world’s best opera singers attract the highest prices in the world. A true, heritage opera house is truly a thing to behold.
La Scala: Milan, Italy
As probably the most famous opera house in the world, La Scala has a lot to prove to any traveller who enters. Not only is this one of the oldest and most visually elaborate opera houses in the world, and thus one of the most beautiful buildings you’ll find anywhere, but it has to live up to a reputation as the world’s “best sounding” musical venue. Said to be due to a slightly concave channel running under the floor by the orchestra, music played at La Scala surrounds audiences as no advanced movie theatre could hope to. This building saw the premiere of some of the most famous operas of the nineteenth century, including its special relationship with composer Verdi. Its traditional, gilded architectural style is unparalleled outside of religious monuments.
Teatro Colon: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Teatro Colon was built in the early 1900s as a political statement, and is actually the second theatre with that name. Unlike the first, which was an intimate 2000-seater, the modern Teatro Colon was a show of wealth and power on the part of the Argentines. Its construction involved many different architects and artists, as well as a murder and several other deaths, and it incorporates a wide variety of European visual motifs. French-styled decorations lay over basic Arentine architecture and beside modern-looking bas-reliefs. It doesn't hurt that Teatro Colon is reliably ranked among the top 5 musical venues in the world.
Royal Opera House: London, England
Any time you hear the prefix "The Royal", you know you're in for something with history, but the Royal Opera House in London, England is in a category all its own. Though the modern iteration is in fact the third rebuilt version of the famous venue, the place hosted George Handel's first operas, and several major composers and playwrights wrote specifically for this stage. This is also the most... red... of the major world opera houses, a colour that has come to be associated with the art form. Where other opera venues in France and Italy preferred the traditional gold, the royal opera house changed the aesthetic of the medium.
To differentiate the noble art of opera from the low entertainment of drama, Russia's latest, greatest opera house was named the Bolshoi Theatre, or The Large Theatre. Scale it certainly has, with an enormous portico and an imposing statue of Apollo, and four full balconies inside. The Bolshoi is also known for maintaining one of the world's best symphony orchestras and dance companies, meaning that the Bolshoi puts on some of the best shows in the world, and presents them in one of the best venues in the world. This opera house has survived everything from revolution to economic collapse, and today it is stronger and more popular than ever.
Sydney Opera House
Located on the Australian coast and cutting famously out into the sea, this architectural attraction is more than just a pretty face. Easily the youngest entry in this list, Sydney's opera house has three major theatres, each paneled with a different shade of wood, so each has its own unique look and accoustic qualities. The roof stage and speaking chamber give the building quite a bit of versatility while the main stage hosts major operatic performances from the word's best troupes and performers. No other opera house can boast this sort of range, as even the area surrounding the opera house has become an attraction worth crossing oceans just to see.
Opera Royal, Versaille Court Theater, France
This one may be a tad unfair. While most other opera venues on this list had to contend with the petty politics of artists and building permits, the Opera Royal sits within the Palace of Versailles; they couldn't have made this place boring if they'd tried. Still, the location can't be given total credit for the success of the place. Not only has it hosted the best of the performing arts since it opened, but it has the ability to transform into a salle des festins style venue, which involves raising the audience's floor to the level of the stage. With its legendary accoustics, this venue can and does host everything from opera to plays to one man shows.
Lincoln Center Metropolitan Opera House, New York
You might have noticed a trend in the preceding members of this list: they're almost all in Europe. This is mostly because opera is an old-world art form and its roots are in Europe. It's partly because there are so few good venues outside of that continent. The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center bucks this trend, however, bringing the most European of performance genres to the most American of cities. Now, no major opera can miss New York's enormous stage, both due to money and prestige. Lincoln Center is also home to the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Ballet, making it rival even the great European legacy venues for sheer artistic pedigree.