select - European operatic cities

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A visit to the great European opera houses provides sublime music and voices, not to mention dazzling architecture and ambiance too.

 

Vienna

The Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) is one of the world’s pre-eminent opera houses: leading international opera stars perform on stage to the accompaniment of the Vienna Philharmonic. The likes of Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, and Lorin Maazel count among its former directors. Some 50 operas are performed every year for the highly knowledgeable and opera-mad Viennese, who are renowned for being vocal in their approval or displeasure. The repertoire is enormous, but Verdi, Wagner, and Mozart operas get regular outings. Built in the 1860s, the gold and crystal interior of the opera building is relatively plain compared to some, but operas are lavish events and Austrians dress for the occasion, adding to the spectacle. With a touch of egalitarianism, however, standing-room tickets are sold shortly before performances, and go for just a few euros.


WHERE
The Staatsoper is on The Ring, the grand boulevard that circles Vienna’s old town. Take the U-Bahn to Karlsplatz.


WHY
Former home of Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, and Strauss among other musicians, Vienna has an impressive operatic and musical legacy.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Vienna

 


London

The magnificently restored Royal Opera House, first built in 1732 and overlooking one of London’s most loved open spaces, is home both to the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera. It is the only place in Britain where you can see regular performances by world-famous opera singers such as Placido Domingo, who celebrates 40 years at the Royal Opera House this year. Operas are sung in their original language, but surtitles in English appear above the stage. Don’t despair if you have no bookings; some tickets are set aside for same-day purchase and unsold tickets go for half-price just before performances. Summer exhibitions showcase costumes from operas, while other regularly changing exhibitions focus on opera history. Two small theatres featuring experimental musical and dance works are also part of the modern additions to the historic building.


WHERE
The Royal Opera House is at Covent Garden in central London. Take the underground to Covent Garden station.


WHY
Britain’s most famous opera company is also its richest, and produces some of the world’s most sumptuous operas.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has four flights a day from Doha to London.

 


Oslo

Norway’s Operahuset is home to its national opera and ballet companies, and also features orchestral and rock concerts, and cultural events in its 1,364-seat auditorium and two other performance spaces, where magnificent acoustics are matched with state-of-the-art stage technology. But it’s the avant garde building itself that really steals the show. Its angular exterior appears to rise out of the harbour like a huge ice floe. Visitors can walk from the plaza outside straight onto the sloping roof to admire panoramic views of the city. Inside, the lobby of warm Baltic oak is flooded with light from soaring windows, and features notable works of art and sculpture. It is indeed a symbol of Oslo’s cultural revival, and a highlight of any visit to the Norwegian capital.


WHERE
The opera house is located at the head of the Oslofjord in the Bjørvika neighbourhood of central Oslo.


WHY
Superb acoustics, dazzling architecture, and the finest opera and ballet companies in Norway.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways flies from Doha to Oslo five times a week from October 5.

 


Milan

Teatro alla Scala, opened in 1778, is considered one of the world’s finest operas. The opera season kicks off in early December and continues all the way through to May, a concert season follows, and then a September ballet season take over. Shows are invariably sold out, so it’s best to book well before arriving in the city. No-one, though, should miss the small museum, which must be one of the most eccentric anywhere. Exhibits include composers’ death masks and plaster casts of various conductors’ hands, Anna Pavlova’s ballet shoes, Verdi’s spinet, and Rossini’s eyeglasses. There’s also a statue of Puccini dressed in his own rather voluminous overcoat. You can take a peek into the red-velvet auditorium of the opera house itself and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of a rehearsal in progress.


WHERE
On Piazza della Scala near the cathedral in the centre of Milan; take the subway to Duomo station.


WHY
Known to everyone as La Scala, this top-notch opera house guarantees you hear the voices of the world’s best opera singers in full flight.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Milan.

 


Barcelona

Gran Teatre del Liceu is one of Europe’s most beautiful opera houses, first built in 1848 in grand Belle Epoque style, but partly reconstructed several times, most lately after a fire in 1994. Still, it remains a magnificent building well worth touring for its architecture, particularly its stunning Room of Mirrors. A small theatre also runs video extracts of various operas and relates the history of the building. The opera company historically favoured 19th-century German and Italian operas (with Verdi still by far the most performed composer) and later Russian composers. But these days, you can enjoy all the great classics, as well as many 20th-century works by the likes of Bartók, Prokofiev, and Schönberg. Electronic translations into several languages on seat backs are a useful modern addition. Ballet is also part of the repertoire.


WHERE
Right on La Rambla, Barcelona’s famed avenue in El Raval district, which is the social centre of the city. Take the metro to Liceu.


WHY
One of the world’s grandest and largest opera houses, with bargain tickets for the upper galleries, nicknamed the Hen Roost.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Barcelona.

 


Paris

Paris’ opera company moved to the new Opéra Bastille in 1989, but the Palais Garnier is still referred to fondly as the Paris Opéra. Although it chiefly hosts ballet these days, try to see an opera here if you can: the opera building, decorated with the busts of famous composers, is magnificent, and the company stages smaller-scale and lesser-known operas here not often seen elsewhere.


WHERE
In the 9th arrondissement of Paris, served by a metro station called Opéra – and located on the Place de l’opéra.


WHY
Not only world-class opera, but a Baroque Revival opera house that is considered a sumptuous masterpiece of architecture.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has 15 flights a week from Doha to Paris.

 
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