The opera: a place of intrigue and spectacle that has for centuries been one of the central cultural and social hubs of any moderately urban area.
During the 20th century, though, many of these grandiose establishments fell into ruin, causing them to become a point of interest for a very 21st century kind of hobby – urban exploring.
In this article, we take a look at some of the (once) magnificent venues and their current state…
This abandoned opera house, as shared on reddit by user pinkeyed cyclops and further explored in a YouTube video by Bros of Decay, sits in the centre of an unnamed Belgian town.
The electrical system, still fully operational, serves a twofold purpose – it keeps the venue mostly free from rot and mold, and it shines a (literal) light on the still beautiful interior, designed in 1892.
Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia
Parts of this hidden gem in the heart of Pennsylvania’s capital were, up until very recently, still only in use by the Holy Ghost Church.
The building was erected in 1908, and quickly changed purpose with the times: from an opera house, to a vaudeville and movie theater, a ballroom and a sports venue, until it finally became mostly deserted by the mid-20th century.
Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia
Back in 2012, news broke that plans to transform and bring the opera house to its former glory were finally coming into fruition. The full renovation was complete in 2018, and this is a rare occurence of an abandoned theratre being brought back to life with great success.
The Metropolitan Opera has since operated as a very successful and popular concert venue, with Bob Dylan having the honours of holding the very first concert.
Antoinette Hall, Tennessee
Hidden on the floor above the STAAR Theatre, lies the abandoned opera house which at the height of its glory bore the name of Antoinette Hall.
Built in 1868, the venue was home to musical prodigies, magician acts, and lectures by Civil War veterans, before its eventual decay and fall into oblivion. It was re-discovered, or, simply, officially re-entered just a few years ago – in 2017.
A stark contrast to the grim and grey color palette of other places on this list, the Sorg Opera House is a bright and colorful venue – which did not save it from its eventual demise.
It holds 1,200 seats and was host to many opera stars of its day, before finally calling it a night and redesigning the place to fit the needs and wants of its time, becoming a fully functional movie theater by 1929.
Sorg Opera House, Ohio
The theatre has continued to be in use, with many renovations and innovations, to this day, though the ceiling could use a touch-up.
A testament to the realities of 20th century USA, it still bears remnants of segregation: with a separate entrance, ticket booth, and balconies for non-white patrons.
The late 19th century, with American industry at its height, saw the sudden construction of entertainment venues all across the USA. In this prosperous climate, even the tiniest towns were seen as deserving of an opera house – and so the Sterling Opera House was built in Derby, the smallest town in Connecticut.
No expense was spared in its construction, with the design heavily relying on the splendor of Italian Baroque architecture – of which only a few pale fragments remain.
Sterling Opera House, Connecticut
The remaining decorations of this once lively venue stand as a testament to the entertainment of times past – the last live performance was held in 1945!
Steinert Hall, Boston
You’ll allow us this one cheat: not an opera house but a „symphonic hall“, built underneath the piano shop of one piano magnate Alexander Steinert. Cleverly thinking up a way to circumvent the noisy Boston streets, Steinert built a great concert hall underneath his store. Sparing no expense, the underground hall was built in Italian Renaissance style, as the lovely Mediterannean-inspired fresco picture here shows.
The hall was eventually discarded in 1942, as it was not up to the city’s health and safety codes, and soon forgotten – until 2011!
As is a tradition within the urban exploration community, many of the places they delight in discovering and sharing with others, remain obscure when it comes to their precise location – as both a way to make others work for their scavenger experience and to dissuade eager, but inexperienced enthusiasts from potential danger.
And so the location of one of the most beautiful places on this list remains a (jealously guarded) mystery. As photographed by exploringwithjosh, this venue still holds traces of Romantic operatic grandeur, evident in heavy chandeliers, lush carpeting, and golden touches (mostly faded) to the boxes.