We all know the theaters and the operas performed in them, but how much do you know about the orchestras that are essential to each opera? If the answer is not much, then you should read this list of four world class opera orchestras you should know of. Even though they are hidden in the orchestra pit, these artists deserve as much credit for the shows you love as the actors and actresses on stage.
1. The Met Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera is one of the most respected operas in the world, which means that to be a member of its orchestra you must be one of the finest musicians in the world. It’s not surprising that the most represented school among the musicians in the orchestra is the prestigious New York based school, Juilliard. Still, the musicians in the Met opera started their journey to the Met long before they went to college.
In 2014, the average age the Met orchestra members began taking music lessons was just seven years old, and on average they had started playing their instrument by the age of nine. That doesn’t mean that they had a paved road to the Met orchestra though because on average it takes nine auditions with the Met orchestra to win a position, and those auditions typically have over 200 qualified applicants. The musicians of the Met Orchestra have to perform at an elite level because, since its founding in 1883, the Met Orchestra has not only performed operas but also put on symphonic and chamber programs at Carnegie Hall and many other locations all over the world.
2. The Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Just like the Met, The Vienna State Opera is one of the crown Jewels of the opera world. Although there has been some form of the ensemble since the 17th century, the Vienna State Opera Orchestra was officially established in 1869. Over its lifetime the Vienna State Opera Orchestra has become one of the most renowned orchestras in the world thanks to the excellent musicians who perform according to the rigorous schedule of the Vienna State Opera.
One of the unique things about the Vienna State Opera Orchestra is that while it is a world class orchestra, it’s also a proving ground for something greater. If a musician wishes to join the Vienna Philharmonic, they must first be a member of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra for at least three years. Only then can a musician submit an application for the Vienna Philharmonic. That means to earn your spot in one of the top symphony orchestras you first have to successfully perform in the Vienna State Opera’s 300 performances per year.
3. The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House has had a long history full of highs and lows. Its storied history includes burning to the ground twice and featuring the first public piano performances in 1767. One of its more relatively recent significant events was in 1946 when the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (then known as the Covent Garden Orchestra) was established.
While the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House is one of the youngest on this list, it does not lack in quality. During Georg Solti’s ten years as the music director of the orchestra, his stated goal was simply to make the opera the best in the world. As ambitious of a goal as that was, he was successful. While it’s difficult to say which opera has the very best orchestra, it is without a doubt that the Royal Opera House Orchestra has been one of the best in the world since Solti took over in 1961. The Royal Opera House Orchestra not only performs opera in London and all over the world but also performs with the Royal Ballet.
4. Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala
Being the orchestra at the most famous opera theater in the world has its perks; The list of famous composers and artists that the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala has performed with is one of the most impressive in the opera world. Since it opened in 1778, La Scala has been the home for Italian opera and the masters who produce them. However, due to tradition in Italian music, the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala didn’t perform as most orchestras do until 1854 when Alberto Mazzuccato took the podium.
Since then the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala has been the home for great conductors like Franco Faccio, Leopoldo Mugnone, Edoardo Mascheroni, Arturo Toscanini and hundreds of the world’s greatest musicians. The Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala is still producing some of the finest opera in the world.