At Switzerland’s stunning new Julier Tower theater, some of the most dramatic scenes are outside the building.
Situated 2,300 meters (about 7,500 feet) above sea level in the heart of the Alps, the striking red theater was unveiled earlier in August by the organizers of Switzerland’s Origen Festival, a major Swiss cultural event celebrating art and performance.
It sits on the celebrated Julier Pass, a mountain road in the Albula Range also known for its Roman remains and medieval chapel. The Alpine backdrop is ever visible to theater-goers thanks to the huge glass windows that flood the building with natural light.
The structure can weather winds of up to 240 kilometers per hour – and even resist avalanches.
Although the theater is enclosed, its judicious use of glass and daylight creates “a direct dialogue between the performances and the landscape,” according to a statement by the organizers.
It’s an approach that harks back to William Shakespeare’s day. In the British Bard’s Elizabethan performances, natural light was incorporated into the productions so that the end of the show would coincide with the passing of daylight.
Today, theater performances can take place everywhere and anywhere – with large-scale stage effects replacing old-school natural lighting.
But Julier Tower marks a return to the use of the ultimate stage set: Planet Earth. The theater plans to host performances throughout the year which will be themed according to the season.
MORE: The world’s coolest outdoor cinemas
Despite receiving global attention, Origen says the spectacular theater won’t last forever. The theater will be dismantled in 2020, in a move representing the “fleeting art form” of theater, according to a statement by the organizers.
Origen is renowned for its adventurous theatrical settings. Back in 2006, the festival renovated Switzerland’s Castle Riom, transforming this elegant medieval stronghold into a beautiful venue for opera performances.
The inaugural performance at Julier Tower starred acclaimed Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin, who put on a dramatic new solo performance in honor of the opening.
More upcoming performances are listed on Origen’s website.
Julier Tower, Julier Pass, 7513 Silvaplana, Switzerland; +41 81 637 16 81
Arena di Verona, Verona, Italy
Culture vultures seeking out theaters in stunning natural settings need not restrict themselves to Switzerland.
In neighboring Italy, the beautiful Arena di Verona offers top theater in an unforgettable setting: an original Roman amphitheater. It’s said that in ancient times the theater would have sat nearly 30,000 people. Now the number is 15,000, but the scale remains awe-inspiring.
The theater hosts first-class opera productions, as well the occasional visit from world superstars including Adele and Bruce Springsteen.
Arena di Verona, Piazza Bra, 1, 37121 Verona VR, Italy; +39 045 800 5151
MORE: Shakes on a plane – airline hosts dramatic performance
The Globe Theater, London
It’s over 400 years since Shakespeare’s death, but his plays remain as frequently performed and as culturally relevant as ever.
Get into the spirit of the Bard’s work as a groundling (standing ticket holder) at London’s Globe – Sam Wanamaker’s reconstructed version of the Elizabethan playhouse where Shakespeare premiered many of his productions.
Groundling tickets are super cheap at £5 (roughly $6.50) and the atmosphere is unforgettable as the sun sets overhead.
Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT
MORE: Shakespeare in the sands – Dubai’s desert drama
Minack Theatre, Cornwall, UK
This cliffside theater is one of the world’s most impressive performance settings. Watch the Cornish waves crash below as you enjoy the varied entertainment on offer.
The eyecatching Minack Theatre began life in 1932, when local resident Rowena Cade – who lived on clifftop Minack House – decided to create the perfect setting for a production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
Eighty years have passed, and the Minack has evolved into a premier spot for British theater. Just don’t get too distracted by the stunning views.
Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Penzance TR19 6JU; 01736 810181
MORE: 9 British beaches worth a visit
Shakespeare in the Park, New York
Manhattan summer staple Shakespeare in the Park made headlines this year with their Trump-inspired take on “Julius Caesar”, but the summertime performances in Central Park always generate conversation.
The free tickets are hard to come by but are worth it, thanks to the high quality of the performances (past performers include Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington) and the magnificent backdrop.
Delacorte Theater, 81 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023; +1 212-539-8500
MORE: “Trump-like” version of “Julius Caesar” stirs debate
The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres, Toronto, Canada
Like the Julier Tower, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres aren’t actually open to the elements; they just give that impression. The complex is comprised of two theaters stacked on top of one another, and both interiors are decorated with features from the natural world: from star-scattered ceilings to green foliage and bright colored flowers.
The theater oozes elegance – plus it’s the world’s only surviving “double-decker” theater.
Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres, 1M4, 189 Yonge St #620, Toronto, ON M5B 2H1, Canada; +1 416-314-2901
MORE: Visiting Toronto? Insiders share tips
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Athens
Ancient Greece was the birthplace of theater as we know it today, so a trip to Athens wouldn’t be complete without a theatrical performance or two.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is an ancient amphitheater is located on the slopes of the Acropolis of Athens, the UNESCO World Heritage Site site.
Originally completed in 161 CE, the site was restored in the 1950s and has played host to theatrical events and festivals ever since.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus; Areopagitou Dionisiou, Athina 105 55, Greece; +30 21 0324 1807