From lakeside amphitheatres to snow-capped Chinese mountainsides, we’ve scoured the globe to find twelve of our planet’s most stunning theatres: auditoria where mankind & nature meet – with breathtaking results!
A Unesco World Heritage Site, Italy’s “Greek Theatre of Syracuse” is a spectacular amphitheatre dating from the 5th century BC in the South East of Sicily. The original trapezoid stage was transformed and the structure extended in the 3rd Century and finally into the current semi-circular staging during the Roman period. Seating offers a view of the bay of the port and the island of Ortygia and despite periods of ruin, Teatro Greco is now being used again for music, song and dance.
Every summer since 1946, the Austrian City of Bregenz beside beautiful Lake Constance comes alive to the sound of large-scale opera and musical performances. The 7,000 seat amphitheatre overlooks a floating stage which is always elaborate and often highly dramatic. Every year, hundreds of thousands flock to this unique and beautiful theatre on the lake to enjoy the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and truly dazzling world-class opera.
Built into a natural amphitheatre in a shaded US canyon, the location for the iconic Hollywood Bowl was originally a favoured picnic spot called Daisy Dell. The first performances in the 1920s grew exponentially as the venue was designed and redesigned to become the beautiful structure we see today. The first 1929 shell design lasted until 2003 when work began on a new shell with improved acoustics. This is possibly the most famous of all the world’s outdoor performance spaces and has hosted anyone who’s anyone in the world of entertainment, from Fred Astaire to Pavarotti and Ella Fitzgerald to Cher.
Set in a Virginia National Park, this North American outdoor Theatre for the Performing Arts houses the Filene Centre, an amphitheatre built from Douglas Fir and Southern Yellow Pine to compliment nature, as well as a Children’s Theatre In The Woods and and two refurbished 18th Century barns which play host to Wolf Trap Opera during summer months. Since 1971, dance, opera and jazz have featured prominently in seasons of work here, as well as performances from the likes of Harry Connick Jr, Elvis Costello and Demi Lovato.
London is a beautiful, cultural and at times incredibly hectic city. So it’s a real joy to step away from the madness into one of their beautiful metropolitan parks and discover theatre of the highest quality (shows often transfer in to the West End) in a tranquil setting where magical fairy lights twinkle in the trees and birds sing along to the score. The 1250 seat auditorium feels surprisingly intimate and is steeply raked so everyone gets a great view.
Silvano Toti Globe Theatre a Villa Borghese
It may come as a surprise to find Shakespeare’s Globe in the middle of a park in Rome, but your eyes aren’t deceiving you! Despite some differences, both the Sam Wanamaker Globe Theatre on London’s Southbank and the Silvano Toti Globe in Italy follow the spirit of the theatre which Shakespeare would have known in Elizabethan England. Italian audiences have the advantage of rather sunnier skies and being surrounded by the beautiful grounds of the Villa Borghese.
“There’s no better place to see the stars”. That’s quite possibly true. From Bob Dylan to Bonnie Raitt, and Dolly Parton to U2 the Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a geological wonder of the world – naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect and uniquely located 6,450 feet above see level where the American Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. Even a seating capacity of nearly 10,000 pales into insignificance compared to the two 300-foot red sandstone monoliths which tower above the stage.
The idea for the Minack theatre was born when Rowena Cade, who lived in Minack House at the top of the cliff, decided to create a place for local performers to stage Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The first performance was in August 1932 and the Minack is now one of Britain’s – and the world’s – most celebrated and picturesque amphitheatres.
Located in the heart of the beautiful Rhone valley and dating from the 1st Century AD, France’s Théâtre antique d’Orange is one of the best preserved Roman theatres in Europe. Each summer, the theatre hosts The Chorégies d’Orange – a festival of Opera. In Roman times, citizens spent much of their time here – something authorities were keen to encourage as it distracted them from political activism. In 1981 UNESCO declared the theatre a World Heritage Site.
Gibraltar’s stunning St Michael’s Cathedral Cave is open to visitors all year round and is one of Europe’s most spectacular natural grottoes. A unique auditorium for concerts, ballet and drama, it has been in use as a theatre since the 1960s and has a seating capacity of 400. Entry does not need to be booked in advance – regular rock tours include entry to Upper St. Michael’s cave.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this Roman theatre was almost completely covered until the late 1800s and only in the last 100 years or so has its true scale been fully appreciated. The front stage was rebuilt in the 1960s/70s and this is now the most visited monument in the city. Since 1933, it has been home to the Festival de Mérida , where the works of Sophocles, Homer, and Plato are performed – the oldest festival of its kind in Spain.
My holiday plans sorted! So many stunning places to visit. And Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is absolutely wonderful on summer nights. Can’t wait to return.