Teatro di San Carlo, Naples

The world’s oldest continuously active opera house first opened its doors on 4 November 1737. With six tiers of boxes, it used to seat more than 3,000, though the composer Spohr thought it was too large. It now seats 1,386.


Teatro alla Scala, Milan

On 3 August 1778, Salieri’s Europa riconosciuta welcomed the first audience to what has since become the world’s most famous opera house, hosting many premieres, not least of Verdi and Puccini.

La Fenice, Venice

Built in 1792, Venice’s La Fenice (‘The Phoenix’) hosted premieres by Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and Verdi in the 19th century. It has twice completely burned down, in 1836 and 1996.

Teatro Massimo, Palermo

Italy’s largest opera house in terms of area, if not number of seats, hosted its first performance in 1897. In 1974, a contentious renovation project closed the venue for 23 years.


Teatro Petruzzelli, Bari

This 1903 venue enjoyed a reputation for punching above its weight in terms of ambitious programming – until 1991, that is, when a fire ripped right through the building, leading to an 18-year closure.