Europe's Opera Houses

To help you cater to clients who are music aficionados, Travel Agent has assembled a compendium of contacts for some of the most famous opera halls around Europe. Use this list to create and pitch custom-made FIT tours that whisk high-end clients around the Continent from one performance to another. Or, if you have sold your client a packaged or guided group tour to a certain country, use the list to suggest that they make a side trip to see a show. 

That's just the sort of value-added advice that will remind your clients of your importance and keep them coming back for future vacations. At the very least, keep this list handy, and inquire whenever someone is traveling to Europe, "Would you like to see an opera while you're there? I can easily arrange that for you, if you'd like."

If you have difficulty, remember it's always an option to have your clients' concierge arrange tickets.

Brussels

In Belgium, have clients stop at the Brussels Opera House (www.lamonnaie.be), which is also known as La Monnaie. The web site has a list of the 2007 performances through June. (Use the English translation button in the far-right corner.) Among the noteworthy operas on the 2007 schedule are The Rake's Progress by Igor Stravinksy (11 performances through April and May) and Mozart's The Magic Flute, playing 10 times from June 6 to June 23. On nights when opera is not scheduled, La Monnaie usually hosts a dance or symphony performance. Also of note is the annual Queen Elizabeth Music Competition (www.concours-reine-elisabeth.be/en), May 6 to June 2 , where musicians just beginning their professional careers face off.

London and Birmingham

 For opera, Andrew Weir of VisitBritain recommends the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (www.royalopera.org), and, indeed, the ROH is kicking off its 2007 season with such crowd-pleasers as Carmen. The London Symphony Orchestra (www.lso.co.uk) plays at the Barbican Centre in London. Tip: Weir raves about the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, saying, "They pride themselves on being one of the best sounding symphony halls in Europe, if not the world. I would say it is number one in the country for symphony." The symphony has an easily navigable web site at www.cbso.co.uk, or call 44 121-780-3333. The symphony's schedule is not published until June, but check ahead because it is often on the road, playing in different parts of England. Organized Symphony Tours

Copenhagen

Previously, both the opera and symphony performed at what is known as the Royal Theater. But that changed in 2005 with the opening of the Copenhagen Opera House (www.kgteater.dk), which clients will likely find as architecturally splendid as the performances that take place inside its walls. "It's gorgeous, right in the middle of Copenhagen, on the water," says Anna Nielson of VisitDenmark. The schedule for 2007 is already posted and includes such highlights as Mozart's Don Giovanni and Wagner's Lohengrin.

Prague

Visitors to Prague have a multitude of choices for opera with three houses right in the city: the National Theatre (www.nationaltheatre.cz), the State Opera (www.state-opera.com) and the Estates Theatre (www.estatestheatre.cz). A single online ticketing engine (www.ticketsonline.cz) serving all three venues makes it easy to purchase tickets and review shows. Prominent operas are performed at all three venues.

Around Italy

If ever there was such a thing as too much of a good thing, than it's opera in Italy. One can craft an FIT tour based solely on visiting opera houses throughout the country. Begin in the north with Milan's La Scala (www.teatroallascala.org), where the 2007 season is highlighted with shows like Verdi's Aida in January, as well as his La Traviata in July. Puccini's Madama Butterfly is scheduled for February and Wagner's Lohengrin for both January and February. An English version of the web site is available, which is more than can be said for many of Italy's other major opera houses. The Teatro La Fenice in Venice (www.teatrolafenice.it), the Teatro de Regio di Parma (www.teatroregioparma.org, 39 0521 039393), and surprisingly even the Teatro dell'Opera (www.opera.roma.it) in Rome do not have English sites.

London's Royal Opera House in Covent Garden

Norway

The Norwegian Opera can be found at www.operaen.no, although even as one Norwegian tourist official in New York admits, "It's not very well known." Next year, things promise to heat up with the opening of a new opera house in Oslo. The Norwegian Opera currently performs right now at Storgaten 23, also in Oslo. For now, the best bet is likely the Bergen International Festival, (www.fib.no) a music extravaganza held from May 23 to June 5, 2007. Next year's festival, the 55th edition, promises to be especially attractive, as the entire country will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the death of the great Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. For the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, direct clients to the Oslo Concert Hall at www.oslokonserthus.no. An English version is available.

Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt

Berlin has three opera houses and three classical music venues. First, opera: Deutsche Oper Berlin (www.deutscheoperberlin.de), the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, (www.staatsoper-berlin.org), and Komische Oper Berlin (www.komische-oper-berlin.de). All three sites have English translations. For classical music, check the Philharmonie at the Culture Forum (www.berliner-philharmoniker.de/en.home), home of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Or the Konzerthaus Berlin, (www.konzerthaus.de), which once hosted Mozart, and today is the home of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra (the site does not have an English translation). You can still check the schedule easily enough, and then call 49 30 20309-2101 for additional ticketing information. Finally, visitors can also catch a classical music performance at the Berliner Residen Konzerte. There is no web site, although ticketing information is available at the Berlin Tourism web site (www.btm.de). Outside Berlin, try the Bavarian State Opera House in Munich (www.bayerische.staatsoper.de) and Frankfurt's opera house (www.oper-frankfurt.de).

Around France

The National Opera of Paris performs at both the Opera Garnier or the Opera Bastile. Info on both houses can be found at www.operadeparis.fr (there is no English translation). Clicking on the "calendrier" button will give you a schedule of events for both venues. If you don't speak French, the French Government Tourist Office suggests you call the box office at 011 33 72 29 35 25, or write directly to the opera house at the address given on the site. A few notes of interest on visiting these two venues: the Opera Garnier, although ostentatious, gilded and generally considered beautiful, has sub-par acoustics, and so few operas are performed there. That said, when an opera is scheduled, purchase tickets far in advance. "When there is an opera done there people get very excited," says Katherine Johnstone, of the French Government Tourist Office. Also, inform clients that Opera Garnier is the opera house that serves as the setting for The Phantom of the Opera; they'll get a kick out of that. As for the Opera Bastille, it is located on the former site of the famed prison of the same name. "To hear opera in Paris, you go to the Opera Bastile," says Johnstone. Outside of Paris, try the Opera de Lyon (www.opera-lyon.com), Opera National de Bordeaux (www.opera-bordeaux.com), The Avignon Opera House (www.mairie-avignon.fr/en/tourisme/operaen.php) or the Opera Montepellier (www.montpellier.com). Have your high school French handy; none of the above has an English translation.

Vienna and Salzburg

If you're crafting an FIT tour with this information, no tour is complete without a visit to the home of Mozart.

Check the Vienna State Opera (www.wiener-staatsoper.at), whose web site has an English translation. The 2007 schedule is available as far as June. Outside of Vienna, one of Europe's many arts festivals featuring opera is the Salzburg Festival (www.salzburgfestival.at). The 2007 schedule should be available in November.