Spooky season is upon us. With leaves falling from windswept trees, witches on the prowl, and the distant sound of twelve-tone rows seeking to fright and delight us, I thought this week’s post ought to be in tune with the mood of the season. So, venture with me as we explore some of the creepiest (and most beautiful) venues for classical music in the world. Try not to scream! You probably have rehearsal tomorrow.
Opéra Garnier - Paris, France
Undoubtedly one of the first venues that come to mind when “haunted opera house” is mentioned, the Palais Garnier has been inspiring frightening tales, dark fantasies, and urban legends for over a century. Completed in 1875, the theatre is an immense and impressive structure with grand staircases, foyers, rehearsal studios, dressing rooms, and yes - even a level submerged underwater. While not actually a lake, the submerged level (tank) is certainly an area of urban legend, with rumors of bodies being found as late as 35 years after the French Commune of 1871. Of course, it also cannot be ignored that the house was one of the main references for Gaston Leroux’s novel, The Phantom of the Opera and its high-profile adaptation into a musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber. I don’t know what’s scarier; getting lost in the maze of rooms and/or falling into the depths of the murky groundwater, worrying a masked man will appear in your mirror demanding you to sing arias that don't match your fach, or having people tell you The Phantom of the Opera is their favorite opera. Either way, yikes.
Teatro Mancinelli - Orvieto, Italy
Perched high on a hill overlooking the valleys of southwestern Umbria, Orvieto is an ancient town at a crossroads between Florence and Rome. Its sunny countenance, Renaissance architecture, and charming narrow streets conceal a series of deep wells and complex caverns carved deep into the hill, making perfect fodder for ghosts (in my opinion). Orvieto is also host to an adorable and richly decorated opera house that offers self-guided tours. Leaving the relaxed and comfortable café in the lobby, you climb several flights of stairs to visit each level of the building. With only a pamphlet to guide you, you wander alone through beautiful mid-nineteenth century Neo-Classical rooms, seating areas, and chambers. However, you somehow feel watched. Between painted allegories, too-gleeful cherubs glancing down at you from the moldings, or sculptures of gods and goddesses that seem to follow your every move, it might be best to take a friend (or tour guide) with you on this tour to avoid feeling too creeped out like I did.
Teatro Amazonas - Manaus, Brazil
Amongst the thick vegetation of the Brazilian rainforest lies the city of Manaus. The cultural and industrial capital of the Amazonas region, Manaus is an urban island pressed upon on all sides by dense greenery and rivers. This unlikely place for an opulent 19th century opera house with Renaissance-revival elements of architecture strikes me as being out of a Tim Burton or Guillermo del Toro film. Rainforest-inspired natural motifs inside the theatre and its halls seem to almost come to life, echoing the mysterious realm past the perimeter of the city. What creatures lurk beyond the confines of the opera house? Does something hide within? Why were so many creepy opera houses built in the 19th century? The questions are endless!
Which theater gives you the creeps? Do you know of any other haunted halls or frightening tales of opera past? Don’t be -afraid- to add your comment to the post.
Happy haunting, friends!
- Preston Hereford