’10 best opera houses’ – and only one is Italian

’10 best opera houses’ – and only one is Italian


norman lebrecht

April 07, 2014

Another fail day for old media.

USA Today sends its readers to the opera. The only Italian house it selects is the Olimpico at Vicenza, which it mis-spells.

Journalistmaking at its finest. Expect to find it on the Mail site in about ten minutes.



  • Julien says:

    Sorry Norman, but read the article.

    The title is “10 best opera houses”, OK.

    Indeed, it talks about the most beautiful opera houses (buildings). It changes everything.

    • No, it doesn’t. Is Bologna unbeautiful? Or Budapest? Is the Met lovely? This is pure piffle.

      • Julien says:

        You’re right. Bologna is marvellous. A great “souvenir”.

        It’s just a subjective and personnal list of one french man, Antoine Pecqueur. Not a big deal.

        And about the situation of old media and USA Today, I’m not the right man to talk about this.

  • The Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza can hardly be called an opera house, given it was built to perform a Sophocles play in 1585, about 15 years before the generally accepted date for the first opera. The whole thing is a load of nonsense.

  • Elena says:

    Ridiculous. The Olimpico is not even an opera house, it is used for many different purposes from chamber music to Greek theatre and only one-two operas per year. It is a little Palladian jewel, but I’m sure Neapolitan people would feel outraged, and for the right reasons.

  • Norman, you are the only person that I know who actually reads USA Today!

  • Richard Naxos says:

    It’s interesting. The Olimpico is not an Opera House, it is sometimes used for regional festivals and mostly baroque Operas but very few times a year. There is no resident company, orchestra or season.

    By the way, it would be impossible to stage anything substantial, as the theatre is national heritage and directors are legally forbidden to move or alter anything on the existent stage; they can, if ever, just put some props in a very small permitted frontstage area.

    Since we are talking about failed music press day:

    I am only at page 55 of Edward Greenfield’s “portrait Gallery” and I find already two enourmous mistakes:

    at page 53 one reads “the contralto Geraldine Farrar, aunt of the composer Samuel Barber ( but it’s actually Louise Homer!!) and on page 10 one finds that Colin Davis waited for the new century to committ his Falstaff to the record (he refers to the LSO 2004 live). But his excellent RCA studio recording has been in the shops since 1992 (and with a cast including Panerai and Horne).

    Now, this book has been published in UK and it’s written by a major figure in the Classical Music world, so why expect something different from general press?

  • richardcarlisle says:

    Judging from the photos NY Met hardly compares in architectural enchantment … time for a facelift?

  • Hard to know what the criterion is, here. Fame? Size? Production quality? Architectural prowess? There’s no common element in the list.

  • M.A. Steinberger says:

    It’s just USA Today. That’s the paper that is delivered free to your hotel room door. Don’t see it anywhere else.

  • Les Dreyer says:

    The Sidney Opera House is visually spectacular but (according to Joan Sutherland and a few other Aussie singers and conductors), has arguably the worst acoustics on the planet. The Melbourne Opera House, on the other hand, may not be stunning to behold, but has excellent acoustics.

    Les Dreyer

    (Retired violinist of the Met Opera, who misses the grand old Met house on 39th Street! The acoustics were fantastic, and the proscenium of composer’s heads was a work of art.) Lincoln Center? An atrocity, and the Travertine marble already is beginning to decay.

    • richardcarlisle says:

      @ Les

      Thanks for your comment … such an elaborate perfectly spaced study in elegance the LC plaza and none of it extending beyond the doorways … better to hold performances outdoors in fair weather?

    • richardcarlisle says:

      @ Les

      Thanks for your comment … such an elaborate perfectly spaced and beautiful layout for the LC plaza — and none of that elegance extending beyond the doorways … better to stage performances outdoors in fair weather?

  • MacroV says:

    If you’re going on architecture, I would say hands-down it’s the Sydney Opera House, IMHO the greatest building of the 20th century and the one – done before modern computing power – that made so many other buildings by the likes of Piano, Gehry, Hadid or Calatrava possible. But the “opera house” in the title is misleading, as the main auditorium is a 2,600 seat concert hall, the opera theatre maybe 1,600 seats and not really capable of staging any kind of opera.

  • Marguerite Foxon says:

    Since spelling is an issue in this stream could I point out it is spelled Sydney. Thx, on behalf of one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world even if it isn’t acoustically.

    • richardcarlisle says:

      Thanks Marguerite for maintenance of standards we think deserved and appropriate for eighth-grade grads and beyond.

  • Tristan says:

    I have hardly read a bigger joke, where is La Scala (by far the most special atmosphere and ambiance) and San Carlo? The MET is for sure not among them, horrible taste and muchh too big for all those operas who need a more intimate atmosphere! They were not composed for such a huge Monster!

  • Kate Brown says:

    The Olimpico is a weird one, given the rest of the list. If he’d wanted to include an early opera house he’d have done better to mention Drottningholm or Cesky Krumlov or the Other Bayreuth Theatre. But I do think the Olimpico has a place in the history of opera: it was built, as Bill Bankes-Jones says, for a production of Sophocles in 1585 – but if you examine the nature of that production it’s clear that it’s a real precursor to the Florentine and Mantuan ‘dramme per musica’. They were – as the Florentines were – trying to recreate the classical theatre experience, complete with singing choruses (in this case composed by the Gabrieli) and a recitative delivery of the words. There’s more, but I won’t bore you – congrats if you’ve read this far… 🙂 Anyway, I doubt if any of that was in Pecquet’s mind. I expect he just looked for the oldest Italian theatre he could find.