Prague, Vienna, Venice, Rome: cities we all long to tick off our bucket list. These, and many other destinations in Europe, offer wonderful places to visit during the day. But are we possibly missing a trick by not enjoying the world-class entertainment that lies behind their doors in the evening?
There is possibly no better way to soak up the history of your holiday location than to spend a night at the opera. Many composers – Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and Wagner – saw their works premiered in Europe’s most beautiful theatres, several of which have changed little since their 18th and 19th century heydays. Watching and listening to the masterworks of these great musicians in the houses where they were first performed is a spellbinding experience that nobody should miss.
A quick guide to some famous names
The Czech Republic’s Národní divadlo; the Wiener Staatsoper in Austria; Italy’s Gran Teatro La Fenice and Teatro Costanzi; all venues that have borne witness to some of the most historic moments in opera: the first outing of Don Giovanni, the libertine that made Prague adopt Mozart as one of their own in 1787; the astonishment felt by audiences as they discovered that Verdi had made a courtesan his heroine in La Traviata in 1853; and Puccini’s ultra-realistic tale of love and murder, Tosca, attended by Italy’s prime minister, Luigi Pelloux, and Princess Margherita of Savoy, in 1900.
Don’t speak Italian or German? Not a problem!
Always check with the venue, but typically you won’t need to rely on your imagination to understand what’s happening on stage. Europe’s major theatres are equipped with technology that provides surtitles in English (often as text shown on a screen alongside the stage), allowing you to follow every twist and turn of the drama.
The programmes published by the theatres provide lavish introductions to the works, their librettos (the script), and the circumstances of their composition, ensuring that you will come away from a performance not just with the music ringing in your ears, but with a deep knowledge and appreciation of how each opera came into being.
Coming up this winter
Some of the greatest works ever created for the theatre will be live on stage this season: in December, Aida, Verdi’s epic tale of love amidst war between the ancient Egyptian and Ethiopian kingdoms, comes to the State Opera in Prague, while in January, Rossini’s glorious slapstick comedy, The Barber of Seville, will tread the boards at the Vienna State Opera.
For the full picture, all you have to do is type the names of the theatres into your web browser search and you will be just one click away from an experience you will never forget!