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Going for a song

The hills may be alive with the sound of music but for some truly amazing auditory experiences, you might want to head somewhere a little more urban. Opera has long been held as a major contributor to the world of performing arts, blending theatre, singing and, often, dancing in a fanfare of colour and sound – a feast for the eyes and ears!

Criticism is sometimes levelled at opera as being a world of ‘top hats and gowns’, too highbrow, too expensive and inaccessible to most people. And whilst some of these issues may be true, many arts companies are making great efforts to debunk this and attract new crowds, be it with cheaper entry, modernising productions and even broadcasting live performances into cinemas. For music afficianados it has never been a better time to dip your toes into operatic waters!

Opera tourism is a significant draw to some of the world’s top cities. There are some fantastic opera houses to see – soaring buildings with majestic architecture to complement magical performances. For memorable shows and great soundscapes, we visit a selection of some great places to experience the “music of the night”!

La Scala; Milan, Italy

Teatro alla Scala (known as “La Scala”) is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy’s second city, and was inaugurated in August 1778. It has hosted many of the finest singers from around the world as well as Italy’s own great operatic artists. La Scala is still recognised as one of the world’s leading opera and ballet theatres and is a great tourist attraction, more so if you are able to experience a live show here! The likes of Nabucco, Otello and Falstaff by Verdi and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly are all operas that have premiered here. La Scala’s new season traditionally opens on 7th December, so if you book now you could start your Christmas in a truly magical way!

Sydney Opera House; Sydney, Australia

This iconic building and World Heritage Site dominates the harbour skyline and is a fascinating multi-venue performing arts centre situated on Bennelong Point, close to Sydney Harbour Bridge and adjacent to the Botanic Gardens. The thriving hub of art and culture is a great architectural work of the 20th century (opened in 1973), attracting over 7 million visitors annually. If you’re not lucky enough to watch one of the 1,500 performances taking place each year, try and take a guided tour to see the building at least. The interior is panelled with different types of wood to enhance the acoustics with the structure designed to represent overlapping shells and sails. Take a trip here for a grand way to spend Xmas – with bonus sunshine too!

Wiener Staatsoper; Vienna, Austria

If there’s one thing Austria is famous for, it’s classical music. And the grandest place in the capital to experience its operatic heritage is the Staatsoper, home of the Vienna State Opera. With a history dating back to the 19th century, this opera house opened with a performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and has been the centre of Viennese musical life since then. As well as a philharmonic and ballet company, this opera house also hosts the city’s glittering international annual ball! In 1945, towards the end of the World War II, the building was set alight when the Allies bombed the city with many parts destroyed though, luckily, the grand staircase miraculously survived. Several famous composers have also been directors here, such as Gustav Mahler, Felix Weingartner and Richard Strauss. Christmas in Vienna must be a tantalizing prospect!

Bolshoi Theatre; Moscow, Russia

An evening at the Bolshoi is still a treat in Moscow, noted for its romantic appeal and fantastic performances by one of the world’s foremost opera companies. A trip here is a must when visiting Moscow. A city landmark, the building itself is a symbolic site and an example of Russian classical architecture. Though principally known for its corps de ballet through their extensive touring, this repertory theatre has a natural speciality for Russian classical opera and the pre-eminent place to go for lovers of Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich or Rimsky-Korsakov – with many of those having had operas premiering here. Having survived fire, war and revolution and recently undergoing extensive renovations, watching a performance here would be a true highlight of any trip!

Teatro Colón; Buenos Aires, Argentina

Located in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires and constructed to replace an existing venue sorely in need of modernisation, the Teatro Colón (or ‘Columbus Theatre’) was opened in May 1908 with Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aïda. With an eclectic background and having gone through a number of architects over the 20 years it took to build, the opera house has significant European Influence. Recently it closed for 4 years to undergo massive renovation, reopening in 2010 hoping to recapture its former glory. And with space for over 120 musicians in the orchestra pit and special curves designed to reflect sound, it’s little surprise that it’s now considered one of the world’s top five concert venues for great acoustics. It’s definitely worth a guided tour, particularly to see the main horseshoe-shaped hall and experience the passion of Latin American operatic tradition!

Whichever operatic experience you choose this year, at Flexicover we are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.