With a gala performance of Beethoven's Fidelio, presented before an audience that included the Queen of Spain, last week the City of Valencia celebrated the long-awaited opening of its Opera House, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía. Designed for his native city by architect, engineer, and artist Santiago Calatrava, the 475,000 square foot Valencia Opera House is a remarkably open and inviting building, whose freely accessible terraces and promenade balconies cantilever off a structure of cut-away white concrete shells.
In addition to the main auditorium, the building incorporates three other performance spaces, an exhibition gallery, and a restaurant, and features murals and ceramic bas-relief sculptures by Calatrava.
The Opera House is Calatrava's third major building to be completed in the 86-acre City of Arts and Sciences, after the Planetarium and IMAX Theater (Hemispheric Theater) and the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum In 1991, the government of Valencia ( Generalitat de Valencia) commissioned Calatrava to design this vast urban
intervention to bring coherence and life to a previously neglected area, and to provide the city with cultural facilities of national importance. Construction on the Opera House began in December 1997.
The first season in the completed Opera House begins with the October 25, 2006 performance of Fidelio, featuring Waltraud Meier (Leonore), Matti Salminen (Rocco), and Peter Seiffert (Florestan) with the Chorus of the Generalitat Valenciana and the Orchestra of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, conducted by Zubin Mehta. The first concert in the building was presented a year ago, on October 8, 2005, to anticipate the opening while the Opera House was under construction.
"The people of Valencia have traditionally shared a deep love of music," Santiago Calatrava states. "The region is sometimes known as the Land of 1,000 Bands, since every village and town has its musical association. In fact Llíria, called the City of Music, has two, which are respected throughout the world. The project of creating the Valencia Opera House is therefore highly significantbecause of the role that music plays in the life of the region, and because of the civic role that the building will now play in the evolution of the city."
Source: The Kreisberg Group