The 15 Most Stunning Theaters in the World
For some, a night at the theater sounds about as fun as sticking your hand in a ceiling fan. But even Andrew Lloyd Webber haters would willingly spend a few hours in these beautiful venues. Whether it's the neobaroque state theater in Wiesbaden or the ultra-modern Guangzhou Opera House, these theaters are incredible examples of both art and architecture. Put on your finest opera glasses, which we know you have lying around, and get going:
On top of being drop-dead gorgeous, Venice's famed opera house has some serious history going for it. The theater has hosted world premieres for composers like Verdi, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Stravinsky (look 'em up, they're legit) since it first opened in 1792. It's also suffered a number of catastrophes -- including a fire as recent as 1996 -- but it's still going strong in its 223rd season.
"Seebühne" means "sea stage" in German, and it's a fitting title, since this theater is floating on the GD water. The Bregenz Festival first began staging productions on Lake Constance in 1946, and eventually built a stage in 1950. The Seebühne now hosts everything from The Magic Flute to West Side Story, but no matter the show, you can count on some insane sets. (This one's from the 2011 production of André Chénier.)
This Canadian gem is part of a double-decker theater and while the Elgin (the other half) is great, it's the Winter Garden Theatre that gets all the attention. Rightfully so, seeing as the walls are hand-painted to resemble a garden and there are actual beech boughs hanging from the ceiling. It began as a bustling vaudeville theater, but closed in 1928 when everyone got enamored with the talkies instead. The Winter Garden Theatre sat there for decades, until the Ontario Heritage Trust launched a multi-million dollar restoration in 1987. They had to clean the whole place with raw bread dough to avoid damaging the original artwork on the walls, but clearly, it was worth the wasted yeast.
Walk into the concert auditorium of this landmark and you'll be confronted with beautiful stained glass, tiled mosaics, and marble sculptures at every turn. It's considered a masterpiece of the Catalan Art Nouveau scene, and is the only concert venue in that style to earn coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Suck it, Lluís Domènech i Montaner wannabes.
For an idea of what you're getting into at this opera house, just look at the bonkers ceiling. Ironically, it's one of the newer parts of the place (Marc Chagall painted it in the '60s) but it blends scenes from several famous operas around an opulent chandelier -- a chandelier that fell in 1896, killing a construction worker and inspiring Gaston Leroux to write The Phantom of the Opera.
Stop by for a show at the Minack and you'll get live theater and breathtaking Cornish scenery for the price of one. You do have to sit on a stone bench and if it rains, well, you're going to get wet. But you can do without a plush theater seat and roof when it means these views of the Porthcurno Bay.
First: try saying this five times fast. Second: consider swinging by for one of the neobaroque theater's 50+ productions per season so you can sit in the Großes Haus and marvel at the frescos.
You've seen the shell-like exterior, but the inside of Australia's pride and joy is just as dramatic. The sculpted ceiling helped Jørn Utzon's creation earn UNESCO World Heritage accolades, despite the opera house's young age, and it might just hypnotize you away from the ballet or TED Talk you're watching.
San Diego, CA, United States
The Balboa has lived many lives. One as a movie palace. Another as WWII Navy housing. A third as a crumbling, empty space. Now it's back in action as a pretty, functioning venue for live Nerdist podcasts and VeggieTales screamfests alike.
In 1776, a lot of things were happening. America was becoming 'Merica, the Illuminati was starting up, and Catherine II was granting Prince Pyotr Urusov an exclusive 10-year management of Russia's entertainment. All of it. The man decided an important first step was a theater, and so the Bolshoi was built in 1780. It's gone through a lot of changes since then, but it's still got the kind of swagger that would make those bitchy Anna Karenina society ladies go weak in the knees.
In its early years (think 174 AD early), this Acropolis theater hosted the finest ancient Greek musicians. Nowadays, it still hosts world-famous musicians like Elton John and Sting, who stopped by on his '96 Mercury Falling tour. Ahem, Hermes Falling tour.
Children under the age of 6 aren't even allowed in the Teatru Manoel, so you know this place is fancy. And if there was any lingering doubt, consider its namesake, the Grandmaster Anton Manoel de Vilhena. The theater has all the classical music concerts and operas you'd expect, but if you thought it was too upper crust for a Ken Kesey production, guess again.
The barons who built the place in the late 1800s took a little bit of this (Italian marble, British steel) and a little bit of that (Parisian furniture) and put it all together to create this opulent, international masterpiece. Other theaters might be as beautiful, but are they also located in the middle of a rainforest? That's what we thought. Point: Teatros Amazonas.
Detroit, MI, United States
When tycoon William Fox opened this stunner in 1928, it had a fleet of 400 ushers, doormen, and other house staff and was deemed the "the most magnificent Temple of Amusement in the World." It fell into disrepair in the ensuing decades, but luckily, the ubiquitous Ilitches restored it to Jazz Age splendor.
Even if your knowledge of architecture begins and ends with Ted Mosby, you probably know Zaha Hadid from her splashy sports arenas. (She built the London Aquatics Centre and Tokyo Olympic stadium.) But her firm's been clocking in impressive work all over the globe for years, and one of the finest examples is this Chinese opera house. The twinkling lights and cascading tiers promise to keep you engaged, even as those Carmen arias are boring you to tears.