Palaces of Music : Opera Houses of Europe, with Dr. Michael Forsyth

Fabulously operatic and architecturally stunning lecture


Michael Forsyth’s talk, illustrated with superb images by the internationally-renowned architectural photographer Ahmet Ertuğ, reveals a new interpretation of social, musical and acoustical interrelationships in the opera houses of Europe, both historic and modern.

Michael explores auditorium shape, dimensions, materials and audience-performer relationships. He reveals how musical requirements have changed and developed from the sixteenth century to the present day, including reference to early opera-pageants incorporating staged naval battles, through to Mozart, Verdi and the operatic fantasies of Richard Wagner.

The lecture integrates architectural and acoustic theory in an accessible and entertaining way, with fascinating stories from musical and operatic history. Splendid opera houses are illustrated from Palladio's seminal Teatro Olimpico to Milan’s La Scala and Garnier's Paris Opéra -- together with charming eighteenth-century survivors such as the court theatres of Marie Antoinette and Drottningholm, Sweden, which sparked the turbulent tale of Verdi’s opera, Un Ballo in Maschera.

The lecture concludes with a glimpse of stunning twenty-first century opera houses at Lyons, Valencia and Oslo.


Dr Michael Forsyth

Michael is an architect and violinist, graduate of the University of Liverpool, holder of a doctor of philosophy degree of the University of Bristol and winner of the Rome Prize in Architecture. He is an internationally well-known writer on architecture and musical history.

His first book, Buildings for Music: The Architect, the Musician, and the Listener from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day (The MIT Press and Cambridge University Press, 1985) is a classic in its field, drawing together the architectural history of opera houses and concert halls, their acoustics, social history and musical performance. The book won the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers' Award for Best Book on Music in the USA. With editions in French, German, Italian and Japanese it substantially influenced the recent generation of auditorium design worldwide.

The internationally renowned photographer, Ahmet Ertuğ commissioned Michael Forsyth to write the text of Palaces of Music: Opera Houses of Europe (Ertuğ & Kocabiyik, 2010) to accompany the finest photographic images ever taken of these buildings. Michael's many other books and publications include Auditoria: Designing for the Performing Arts (Mitchell, London and Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1987).

He has lectured on opera house & theatre design, their history, conservation, and restoration at many universities and cultural institutions in the UK, Italy, Belgium, USA, Canada and Turkey.

With his partner Marion Harney, Michael also wrote the Pevsner Architectural Guide to Bath. He is currently Director of Studies at the University of Bath’s Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, ranked the UK Number One by The Times Good University Guide 2013.

2013Martin Keeley