Catch a show at these famous theaters

From “Swan Lake” at the Bolshoi Theatre to Gladys Knight playing the Hollywood Bowl, lovers of theater and the musical arts are certainly spoiled for choice this season.

The auditorium of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Photo: Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera
The auditorium of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Image credit: Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera

If you’re a lover of the arts, then it’s hard to beat seeing an opera, ballet, or symphony performed at one of the world’s most famous theatres. Not only are you guaranteed a spectacular show, but the history and legacy of the buildings and halls within which they are performed make the experience truly special.

For a historically and culturally immersive city break, book a ticket for a performance at one of these iconic theaters, located in some of the world’s most exciting cities.

The Globe Theatre, London

It’s hard to think of a building with more theatrical significance than The Globe Theatre in London, founded in 1599 by William Shakespeare’s own company. The theater as it stands today is a reconstruction of the original Elizabethan-era playing house, and is by far the best place to catch one of the British bard’s many tales of tragedy, romance, and comedy.

When it was first built, The Globe Theatre was the largest and most remarkable theater in all of London, with tiered stadium seating for the upper classes, and a standing “pit” area for the masses, for which tickets cost just a penny. But the years weren’t kind to Shakespeare’s Globe, which was devastated once in 1613 by fire from by a misfired prop cannon, and rebuilt, only to meet its demise in 1644 at the hands of the Puritans, who had outlawed such frivolous forms of entertainment.

We can thank the American Actor Sam Wanamaker for the Modern Globe Theatre. He established the Shakespeare Globe Playhouse Trust and spearheaded the 1997 rebuild as a tribute to Britain’s most famous playwright.

Upcoming shows: Catch “Henry The IV”, “Henry The V”, and “The Merry Wives of Windsor”, showing now through to October. For something a bit special, book a ticket for the September 6th midnight matinee performance of “As You Like It”.

Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow

Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre is one of Russia’s most loved buildings, with a storied history to rival the dramatic operas and ballets staged within its palatial interior. Built in neoclassical style, the theatre holds 2153 spectators and the theatre’s iconic facade, with its large towering columns, can be spotted on the Russian 100-Ruble note.

Originally founded by a Russian prince, the Bolshoi Theatre had a shaky start in life, surviving fire and near-bankruptcy during the building process, before opening its doors to the public in 1780. Over the following centuries, through multiple regime changes and revolutions, the opulent, Imperial-era building was lucky to survive.

After slowly falling into disrepair through the 19th century due to underfunding, The Bolshoi Theatre underwent a major restoration effort from 2005 through to 2011. Today, it is one of the most impressive theatres to watch classical opera and ballet, performed by the Bolshoi’s world-famous troupe of dancers, actors, and musicians. 

Upcoming shows: Highlights for 2019 include the classic ballet “Sleeping Beauty”, showing through July, and Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” which will be showing through August.

The Metropolitan Opera, New York

The lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Image credit: Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera.jpg
The lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Image credit: Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera

The Metropolitan Opera is the largest opera house in the world, and it’s stylish, modernist design makes it an impressive and unique location in which to watch a world-class performance.

The Metropolitan Opera was founded and built in 1883 in Midtown Manhattan by a group of extremely wealthy New York City businessmen. It was intended to ruffle feathers and play rival to The Academy Of Arts, which at the time, was the city’s premier arts establishment, and reserved exclusively for the aristocratic upper-class. The Metropolitan Opera was an instant success, and after operating at maximum capacity for almost a century, it was finally relocated in 1966 to a much larger location within the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

The Metropolitan Opera as we know it today is a true modernist masterpiece, designed by Wallace Harrison, the architect behind the Rockefeller Center. Their seasonal programs include a mix of both classic operas and more experimental works.

Upcoming Shows: The hottest ticket this season is Puccini’s “La Bohème”, which is showing from October through to May 2020. For something a little different, book a ticket for South African Artist William Kentridge’s version of “Wozzeck”, premiering in December.

The Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles

Fireworks during a Hollywood Bowl performance. Image credit: Craig Mathew/Mathew Imaging
Fireworks during a Hollywood Bowl performance. Image credit: Craig Mathew/Mathew Imaging

The Beatles, Judy Garland, and Pavarotti are just a few of the famous musicians to have graced the stage of Hollywood Bowl, which is one of the world’s largest natural outdoor amphitheaters.

The shell and stage of the Hollywood Bowl, first erected in 1927, was designed by the American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The shell was originally a pyramid in shape, but the structure was considered too avant-garde for most tastes, so was redesigned and replaced by Wright just a year later. A series of concentric arches gave the new shell its iconic Art Deco appearance and informed all future renovations. The Hollywood Bowl has played a central role in U.S. pop culture over the last century, booking Frank Sinatra as its first ever “pop” act in 1943, and playing host to The Beatles in 1964 for their live recorded album ‘The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl’.

The theater boasts incredible acoustics, with sound traveling up from the central stage and reverberating through the surrounding bowl-shaped canyon for which the venue is named. Evenings are the best time to catch a show at the Hollywood Bowl, as you’ll be treated to a spectacular sunset behind the stage, followed by a star-filled sky.

Upcoming shows: Big name acts for 2019 include Lionel Richie on August 5th, Gladys Knight on September 8th, and Rod Stewart on September 27th.

Musikverein, Vienna

It’s only Fitting that Vienna, the old stomping ground of musical great Mozart, should be home to a classical music hall as grand and impressive as the Musikverein. The theater’s main Golden Hall is legendary, with elaborate decor including painted ceilings depicting Apollo and the Nine Muses, and fifty life-sized golden statues of female nudes stationed around its perimeter.

Designed by Danish architect Theophil Hansen, the Musikverein opened in 1870 and was an instant hit with both theatergoers and the music community. Not only were audiences blown away by the theater’s opulent design, but also by the incredible acoustics in the central Golden Hall. It’s still a matter of mystery exactly how the space produces such an astonishing quality of sound.

In 2004, the ground beneath the Musikverein was excavated and three new music halls were installed, named Glass, Metal, Stone, and Wood, after the material themes on which they were designed. While the Golden Hall hosts large-scale performances by established symphonies, these new halls, which are smaller in size, are dedicated to the future of classical music, offering a varied and more avant-garde program.

Upcoming shows: Catch the Vienna Mozart Orchestra who perform in the Golden Hall on a near-weekly basis, or, for a chance to see the Vienna Philharmonic’s traditional New Year’s concert, place a reminder in your calendar to enter the ticket lottery which is held in February.

Sydney Opera House, Sydney

The Sydney Opera House cuts a fine figure against Australia's blue skies. Image credit: Hamilton Lund
The Sydney Opera House cuts a fine figure against Australia’s blue skies. Image credit: Hamilton Lund

Europe may once have been the center of the performing arts, but these days one of the most desirable places to view a first-rate production is Down Under, at the iconic Sydney Opera House. Perched on the waterfront at Bennelong Point, the building’s sculptural, shell-like silhouette is the jewel of the city’s skyline.

The design for the Sydney Opera House was created by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, chosen from a total of 233 submissions made by various architects around the world as part of the 1956 Opera House International Design Competition. Originally estimated to take just four years to build at a cost of 7 million AUD, and take just four years to build, the structure ended up taking 14 years to complete at a staggering 103 million AUD.

Ask any lover of the arts and they will tell you it was money and time well spent. The Sydney Opera House has been crowned a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered one of Australia’s most important architectural and cultural attractions. Seasonal programs are diverse and exciting, featuring productions by the Australian National Opera, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and the Australian Ballet.

Upcoming shows: Rossini’s absurdist opera “Il Viaggio a Reims” is one of 2019’s hottest tickets, with five shows through October and November. Fans of classical ballet can be treated to Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, showing through November and December.


Grace Catherine

Grace is a freelance writer and digital project manager from New Zealand currently based in Mexico City. She is an avid traveler who loves destinations with an eclectic history, a bike-sharing scheme, and plenty of cool animals.