The word theatre means a “place for seeing.” The first known theatrical event was in 2500 BC in Egypt.
The ancient Greeks began formalizing theatre as an art, developing strict definitions of tragedy and comedy as well as other forms, including satyr plays. Like the religious plays of ancient Egypt, Greek plays made use of mythological characters. The Greeks also developed the concepts of dramatic criticism, acting as a career, and theatre architecture.
Western theatre continued to develop under the Roman Empire, in medieval England, and continued to thrive, taking on many alternate forms in Spain, Italy, France, and Russia in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The general trend over the centuries was away from the poetic drama of the Greeks and the Renaissance and toward a more realistic style, especially following the Industrial Revolution.
Ireland likes to think of itself as a rather cultural spot, and with good reason, too. Ireland has a lively theatre scene, the most famous of which could be the Abbey Theatre.
In Mainland Europe theatre has a long tradition.
In Iceland the Reykjavík City Theatre has been performing repertory since 1897. It stages 6-10 plays per year on two stages. The state-run National Theatre has operated since 1950 and stages 10-15 productions a year on three stages.
In Portugal Casa da Musica, Avenida Da Boavista opened in 2005 and has already established itself as the musical heart of the city. It is home to the Orquestra Nacional do Porto and has a hugely impressive concert hall, but it also has lots of other halls and rooms for a wide variety of musical events and genres. In addition, it has two restaurants and three bars, so it’s a nice venue to spend an evening.
In Spain the main opera house is the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, opened in 1847, and one of the world's finest and largest settings for opera. Since its complete refurbishment in 1997, the Teatro Real in Madrid, originally opened in 1850, has become one of the most avant-garde opera venues in Europe and stages many world premieres.
In Paris, marvel at the sumptuous Opéra Garnier, an amazing example of neo-Baroque architecture. For a magnificent combination of classic Italian and modern architecture, you must see the opera house in Lyon. Marseille, Rouen, Nice, and Bordeaux are just a few of the other cities in France graced with opera houses.
On to Germany and the question is: where to start? Berlin has the modern Deutsche Oper Berlin, the 19th century Comic Opera, and the reconstructed 18th century Staatsoper to choose from. The award-winning Stuttgart State Opera is another beautiful building well worth a visit. The Dresden Semper is a superb example of Baroque architecture, stunning and filled with art from the original building. There are lovely opera houses in so many other cities in Germany – Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Leipzig, and more – seize the opportunity to take a tour or enjoy a performance!
In the Czech Republic it was at the Prague Estates Theatre that Mozart conducted the very first performance of Don Giovanni; the Prague State Opera is an equally magnificent building.
In Hungary, the Hungarian State Opera awaits its visitors at the opera house on world famous Andrássy Avenue.
To see some of the most contemporary and striking opera houses, visit Copenhagen (Denmark), or Gothenburg (Sweden). Norway will have a new opera house opening in Bjørvika, a harbor area in Oslo area, in 2008.