The first time I went to a concert when I was in London as a wide-eyed freshman in college , I was swept up by the magic of it.
Not just the beautiful clothing and sparkling jewels of the patrons, but the energy, the excitement, the mood, the architecture, the lights. And that was all before even the first note was sung!
Since then I’ve been in some incredible concert halls all over Europe, and seen some beautiful works of art performed there. This past weekend I went to see an old favorite of mine performing in the Carré in Amsterdam, and it inspired a walk down memory lane.
In London my two favorite spaces are the Royal Opera House and Royal Albert Hall (Albert Hall mostly I think because I did an entire semester course once on Queen Victoria, but I did also see there a performance of La Boheme that was staged in the round and really breath-taking.) I love the location of Albert Hall right on Hyde Park, overlooking the Albert Memorial. I went there for the first time for a UNICEF fund-raiser and saw Pavarotti, Eric Clapton, and Sting all on one stage! What a night!
When I lived in London I would use my student card and try to see a show every week – with a student card you could buy the un-claimed or returned season tickets available for that night. So you had to try your luck, but it was worth it! Was cheaper than going to the movies! I saw in one year something like 9 operas and 15 concerts! In the Royal Opera House I loved seeing the blend of glass and steel and old walls with people sweeping buy in tuxedos and chic dresses.
In Munich, the Nationaltheater building, where Richard Wagner used to stage operas for Ludwig II, simply stuns you with it’s opulence and it’s gilt. A great space to watch the people and beautiful music. But warning – no air-conditioning! (Which can make the summer-time opera festival slightly… sticky… to experience!) There I saw the opera Cinderella – and what a magical night!
Barcelona! Here you should visit, even if it’s just for a cup of coffee in it’s cafe – the Palau de la Musica Catalana. This Modernist building built in 1908 is like a work of art itself – overrun by stained glass windows and details like mosaic-covered walls and pillars that make every inch one to stare at and admire.
This past summer in Salzburg for the famous Salzburg Festspiele (Opera and Classical Music Festival), I saw Handel’s Julius Ceasar in Egypt in the “Haus für Mozart” building, but I also took a tour of the famous concert spaces they have built there especially for this festival. Drawing people from all over the world, and employing a staff of 800 stage-hands, this festival is a HUGE undertaking.
The spaces for performances in Salzburg range from the modern and huge (the main festival hall with one of Europe’s largest stages, over 100 meters across!) to the old and unique (the Horse-Riding School… the old converted Horse Riding show spaces where the Archbishop of Salzburg used to watch performances with his horses and which is now one of Salzburg’s most famous spaces thanks to the festival and Christopher Plummer’s ‘Edelweiss’ action.)
In Amsterdam I have two favorite spots: The first is the Stopera (the MuziekTheater built of red brick and glass right next door to the Amsterdam City Hall. A building with fascinating history since it was very much about building something in an area wrecked by Holocaust devastation. But what do you build on ground where people had been hauled into a ghetto? Something for beauty – a concert hall for both opera and ballet; Something for moving forward – a city hall with a council chamber all in glass overlooking the Amstel.)
Second, The Concertgebouw on Museumplein. In this ‘temple’ built to celebrate music and sound, you can see ANY show and it feels special and thrilling and beautiful. I love the free lunch-time concerts on Wednesdays :)
This past weekend’s visit to the Carré was my first concert there. I have to say it’s a beautiful location, on the Amstel River and framed by bridges lit up with twinkling lights. Looking forward to more experiences there too!
Any other spaces to recommend for my to-see list?