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19 wondrous opera houses

By: Angela Nelson on Aug. 18, 2016, 6:42 a.m.
Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy

Photo: Fiona Bradley/flickr

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Teatro alla Scala in Milan

In 1776, a fire burned down Milan's opera house, so a group of wealthy patrons asked Empress Maria Theresa of Austria to have a new one built, and they footed the cost in exchange for possession of the land on which it would stand and box seats. Teatro alla Scala, designed by neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini, opened in 1778 and went on to become one of the leading opera houses in the world.

La Scala, as it's referred to (it means "staircase" in Italian), was bombed in 1943 during World War II and restored in 1946. Then, in late 2001, the theater closed for an extensive three-year, $67 million renovation under architect Mario Botta, according to Britannica.

The theater has more than 2,500 red velvet seats with stalls arranged in six tiers of boxes, and it's said to have perfect acoustics. As National Geographic reports, "One of La Scala’s most ingenious features is the concave channel under the wooden floor of the orchestra; this is credited with giving the theater superb acoustics."

La Scala is also home to a ballet company and the Scala Theater Museum, which offers visitors a historical tour of costumes, set designs, musical instruments, paintings, photographs and even the correspondence of musicians, actors and dancers.