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‘Theatres’ features extraordinary spectacles

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The Latin phrase “sanctum sanctorum” most often refers to the most holy places – and for thespians and bibliophiles, few places are more sacred than theatres and libraries.

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With the publication of its two latest tomes Libraries and Theatres, Roads Publishing has opened the portals of the world’s most sancta sanctorum. As Danielle Ryan, founder of Roads Luxury Group Ltd., states, “These books were wonderful to research and I discovered many incredible buildings whilst doing so. It was hard to edit them down.”

The result is a two-volume visual exploration of the ongoing evolution of the world’s most fascinating and iconic libraries and theatres. “What I like about this series,” says Ryan, “and the reason I call it the ‘reflection series,’ is that any national library or theatre is a state building and, therefore, must be designed to reflect the values, style and ethos of the city they live in. Very telling. This is how the city chose to represent itself.”

With a background in theatre, Ryan established Dublin’s National Academy of Dramatic Art before embarking upon the concept for Roads Luxury Group and its publishing arm. A labor of love, Theatres is a pictorial journey through some of the world’s most spectacular performance spaces from the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens to the work of Finnish architect Pekka Salminen who contributes the book’s foreword.

Those who have sat in hushed reverence before the commencement of a performance know that the final moments before a curtain rises or a line is spoken are imbued with the sense of expectation. Theatres showcases a cavalcade of architectural wonders designed to astound the senses and stimulate the mind. St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre reflects the imperial desires of tsarist Russia while Salminen’s Wuxi Grand Theatre, just to the west of Shanghai, balances on the waterfront like a butterfly about to take wing. Austria is represented by its splendid Seebühne, which floats above Lake Constance like a massive lily pad awaiting transformation by scenic designers. Vaudeville and movie palaces include Toronto’s stacked Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres and Detroit’s Fox Theatre, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, well before Detroit’s recent economic woes.

The 192-page hardcover features stunning imagery from various photographers, which is complemented by four-language captions and detailed information on each of the performance spaces. Radio City Music Hall is the “largest indoor theatre in the world” and the Boston Opera House, built in 1928, was originally used for live vaudeville. As for the Palais Garnier in Paris, the opulent theatre was used as a prison during the Siege of Paris.

These are the houses that art built and viewers of Theatres will probably yearn to experience them all. As Salminen writes in the book’s foreword, even “the internet cannot replace our love of public performance.”

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