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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Best Opera Companies/Festivals

    LOL, the National Geographic magazine published a list of the supposed top ten opera companies in the world, but listed the obscure Opéra Royal in Versailles, France, as one of the ten, whaaaat? This, while failing to list the Mariinsky, and giving too much credit to the Colón in Buenos Aires, and also failing to list the Bavarian State Opera which could arguably contest for the title of best opera company in the world, quality-wise, and any of the great Berlin companies.

    Don't go to the National Geographic for info on opera, LOL.

    Here is their list of ten best, apparently in no particular order. It sounds like they went for the buildings rather than the companies, but they did include the wording "best opera houses" instead of "most beautiful opera houses" so I suppose it's quite ambiguous. And then, if it's the building, where is La Fenice? It is certainly more beautiful and more traditional than the Metropolitan Opera, LOL.

    La Scala
    Teatro di San Carlo (well, it is quite good - and gorgeous - but probably not quite top ten, quality-wise)
    Teatro Colón (? What exactly have they done to deserve this ranking? Sure, important in South America last century but certainly not a world-class opera company)
    The Royal Opera House Covent Garden
    The Bolshoi
    Sydney Opera House
    Paris Opéra (their correct name is Opéra National de Paris; I guess this rightly includes both Garnier and Bastille - very important company, of course, but quality-wise I'd dispute its inclusion in the top ten best ones, given a significant drop in quality in recent years as opposed to their glorious past - I actually think that the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence is much superior, in terms of quality, and is the best current French opera company)
    Opéra Royal de Versailles (yeah, right! The biggest blunder - they do some gala presentations and the odd production, that's all)
    Vienna Staatsoper
    Metropolitan Opera, which they listed as "Lincoln Center," LOL.

    I think they listed Sydney more for their famous building than for their quality. I suppose it is quite good (I've never been to it) but again, it is hard to think of it as top ten in the world. Also, I'd place the Mariinsky way ahead of the Bolshoi.

    What would be my top ten? I'll include the festivals that for all purposes are year-long opera companies since they continuously operate behind closed doors when not in season, to achieve their production values; just, they concentrate their performances in the summer, with Salzburg actually doing two seasons per year, and Glyndebourne adding an itinerant tour).

    I guess:

    Bayerische Staatsoper
    Vienna Staatsoper
    Metropolitan Opera
    Royal Opera House Covent Garden
    Glyndebourne Opera Festival
    Mariinsky Theater
    Festival d'Aix-en-Provence
    If we could combine the three Berlin companies in one like the Opéra National de Paris combines Garnier and Bastille, I'd place this hypothetical opera company here, including the variable quality Staatsoper Unter den Linden, my favorite Komische Oper Berlin, and the also impressive Deutsche Oper Berlin. This combination makes sense because they are, all three, funded by the same organizations, the federal government and the city of Berlin, like the Opéra National de Paris.
    La Scala (although they've fallen behind quality-wise and the company in Turin - Teatro Regio di Torino - might actually contest for the best current Italian company although it is so poorly known abroad, but how not to list La Scala? And then, when they get it right, they do it very well - in my most recent trip there I was quite amazed by the high quality of singing and playing)
    Salzburg Festival

    What would be your list, dear members?
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I'd probably add the Zürich Opera to your list. Under both Alexander Pereira and now Andreas Homoki, this house has produced an impressive number of quality productions.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    I'd probably add the Zürich Opera to your list. Under both Alexander Pereira and now Andreas Homoki, this house has produced an impressive number of quality productions.
    Yes, no doubt! I love that company. The problem is, which one I'd remove from my top 10 list? Unless we make a special allowance and call it a top 11 list, LOL. Maybe I should remove Salzburg. I feel they can be a bit of a hit and miss sometimes, and some of their productions don't have a lot of sophisticated production values (although they are often very intelligent). But still, together with Glyndebourne and Aix, there is no doubt that they are part of the top 3 most important opera festivals in Europe (and the world) so it's hard to remove them.

    Another asset of Zurich is how comfortable the house is! Lots of leg room, great seats, good lines of vision to the stage, good acoustics, the theater is small and manageable, the snack bar has some very tasty treats, and there are great restaurants a block away.

    Now, if we were to call each of the Berlin companies, an independent one (which ultimately, they are), and add Zurich, we might get to a more manageable top 15. There would be space for two more.

    Which two would we add to the top 15? The historical importance of Bayreuth is huge but again, hit and miss.

    La Monnaie? That would be an interesting choice.

    Another American company like San Fran or Santa Fe?

    One from Spain, Madrid or Barcelona (Liceu)?

    Sydney?

    Another issue is that if we don't consider the Berlin companies as three entities of the same funding organization like everybody does for Bastille and Garnier, then I'm not sure if the Staatsoper Unter den Linden would still belong to the top 10 on its own, because they've also been hit and miss lately, and the reform of their building was less than successful. Our friend Hoffmann seems to prefer the Deutsche to the Staatsoper, and I definitely prefer the Komische. On the other hand it's hard to not call them top 15; they do have important productions and a hugely important chief conductor.

    Arguably the Bolshoi could be brought back, although I often prefer the Mariinsky productions to theirs.

    This is hard...
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    Are the Bastille and Garnier under the same management team, or does each have its own Intendant and General Music Director? While the three Berlin houses all receive a public subsidy from the same source, each one has a separate management group. I'd treat the Paris and Berlin houses the same way only if they have the same managerial structures.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    Are the Bastille and Garnier under the same management team, or does each have its own Intendant and General Music Director? While the three Berlin houses all receive a public subsidy from the same source, each one has a separate management group. I'd treat the Paris and Berlin houses the same way only if they have the same managerial structures.
    Yes, I know I'm forcing the issue. I had thought of it the same way you just did, but I chose to stick my head in the sand.
    L'Opéra National de Paris is under one management. They have performances in the two theaters they own, Palais Garnier, and Bastille. It's truly one single company. The three Berlin companies, on the other hand, are three different companies, with their own management and artistic directors.
    I just wanted to fit more than ten companies in my top ten, LOL
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    My list will be the best out of the ones I've been to and it's difficult as I'm prejudiced. If I have a wonderful opera experience I love the house and vice versa.

    Not in any particular order.

    Bayerische Staatsoper
    Deutsche Oper Berlin
    Royal Opera House Covent Garden
    Theater an der Wien
    Opernhaus Zürich
    Opéra de Lyon
    Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
    Dutch National Opera - Amsterdam

    I've been to Wiener Staatsoper and it's not on my list because I've been three times now and each time staff were rude and unhelpful. Last time, for Les troyens, when I entered the auditorium I saw that there was a woman in my seat. She refused to budge and the usher who came to sort it was sympathetic and apologetic to the other woman but just dismissed me. This woman (who was sat across the aisle from me) spent all the opera checking her phone and actually videoed Hylas' aria (chicken in the basket!) and although an usher saw her, she wasn't stopped.
    "Every theatre is an insane asylum, but an opera theatre is the ward for the incurables."

    FRANZ SCHALK, attributed, Losing the Plot in Opera: Myths and Secrets of the World's Great Operas

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about your poor experiences with the Wiener Staatsoper. I would have ranked it as one of the top houses, but the lousy customer service is inexcusable.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Lander (sospiro) View Post
    My list will be the best out of the ones I've been to and it's difficult as I'm prejudiced. If I have a wonderful opera experience I love the house and vice versa.

    Not in any particular order.

    Bayerische Staatsoper
    Deutsche Oper Berlin
    Royal Opera House Covent Garden
    Theater an der Wien
    Opernhaus Zürich
    Opéra de Lyon
    Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
    Dutch National Opera - Amsterdam

    I've been to Wiener Staatsoper and it's not on my list because I've been three times now and each time staff were rude and unhelpful. Last time, for Les troyens, when I entered the auditorium I saw that there was a woman in my seat. She refused to budge and the usher who came to sort it was sympathetic and apologetic to the other woman but just dismissed me. This woman (who was sat across the aisle from me) spent all the opera checking her phone and actually videoed Hylas' aria (chicken in the basket!) and although an usher saw her, she wasn't stopped.
    Yes, the house is of very high artistic standard and I do feel that there is no doubt that they qualify as top ten in the world, quality-wise, and even top five. But your experience does match the strange incident I had there, when a woman slapped me on the back because I stood up to applaud the curtain calls. Again, the ushers seemed totally indifferent to something that here in the United States, could have generated charges against her for battery.

    So, what is wrong with the Austrian patrons and ushers? Bizarre. Like I said in my review of that show, I've never seen or heard of anything like this in any other opera house in the world, and I thought it was just an extreme case that wouldn't repeat, but now, reading about your experiences there, maybe there is something to be said after all about the rudeness of those people.

    This contrasts with the amazing Deutsche Oper Berlin where they go out of their way to make the patrons feel welcome, including, giving away free wine before the opera, and free chocolate truffles after the show.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    Yes, the house is of very high artistic standard and I do feel that there is no doubt that they qualify as top ten in the world, quality-wise, and even top five. But your experience does match the strange incident I had there, when a woman slapped me on the back because I stood up to applaud the curtain calls. Again, the ushers seemed totally indifferent to something that here in the United States, could have generated charges against her for battery.

    So, what is wrong with the Austrian patrons and ushers? Bizarre. Like I said in my review of that show, I've never seen or heard of anything like this in any other opera house in the world, and I thought it was just an extreme case that wouldn't repeat, but now, reading about your experiences there, maybe there is something to be said after all about the rudeness of those people.

    This contrasts with the amazing Deutsche Oper Berlin where they go out of their way to make the patrons feel welcome, including, giving away free wine before the opera, and free chocolate truffles after the show.
    Gosh, I remember your telling us now. What a strange thing to do. In my opinion, curtain calls are a free-for-all and if the people in front of you stand, you stand etc etc.

    I've always had a good experience at Theater an der Wien where the staff are friendly and helpful and I've not encountered any rude patrons either so it's not Austrians per se. Maybe the house attracts a different clientele.
    "Every theatre is an insane asylum, but an opera theatre is the ward for the incurables."

    FRANZ SCHALK, attributed, Losing the Plot in Opera: Myths and Secrets of the World's Great Operas

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    Yes, I know I'm forcing the issue. I had thought of it the same way you just did, but I chose to stick my head in the sand.
    L'Opéra National de Paris is under one management. They have performances in the two theaters they own, Palais Garnier, and Bastille. It's truly one single company. The three Berlin companies, on the other hand, are three different companies, with their own management and artistic directors.
    I just wanted to fit more than ten companies in my top ten, LOL

    This, I'm afraid to say, is the correct answer.

    I love all 3 Berlin companies, but agree with Luiz that although the Staatsoper generally is considered the "jewel in the crown", it frequently falls short of the accomplishments of its sister opera houses. It's hard for me to take seriously a company that continues to employ Placido Domingo, who really no longer is at the top of his game as a baritone in lead roles. I'm also a little skeptical of Daniel Barenboim's conducting and leadership (Ok, good, no lightening bolt...).

    I enjoy my evenings at the Staatsoper, but find the opera house to be very conservative (Move along, no Regie here!) and restrained. It is able to attract top of the line talent, but so does the Deutsche Oper. Interesting schedules, interesting productions and great singing in a lovely opera house. The auditorium is a bit prosaic, but has great sound and a low stage apron.

    The Komische Oper has to be the single most under-estimated opera house in the world. A gem of an opera house dating to the 1890s that, albeit damage, somehow managed to survive the bombing of Berlin during WWII. As most know, I saw my first opera in this opera house (The Tales of Hoffmann, naturally!) in 1972. While I have loved almost everything I've seen at the Komische (yes, even including Die Gezeichneten) the stunning performance of Die Meistersinger alone is enough to mark the Komische Oper as a world class opera house.

    It's hard for me to list the top ten opera houses in the world as I haven't been to all that many. I wonder if such a list would need to combine a beautiful house with the highest artistic standards.

    I would include:

    Bayerische Staatsoper
    Komische Oper Berlin
    Deutsche Oper Berlin
    Metropolitan Opera
    Royal Opera Covent Garden
    Glyndebourne
    L'Opéra National de Paris
    Wiener Staatsoper (this despite still their using the Zeffirelli La Boheme also still in use at the Met)
    Santa Fe Opera
    #10? IDK

    I would not include the Liceu, Barcelona. I saw a production of Nabucco there in 2015. It was not an in-house production, no world class singers and surtitles were in Spanish only. Fairly parochial, in my assessment.

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