Victoria Newhouse, the architectural historian best known for her writings on art museums, has now extended her attention to buildings used for music and drama. In so doing she has found that “like many art museums, the most ambitious new opera houses and concert halls are the twenty-first-century equivalents of the medieval cathedral; they have been shorn of their reverential aura, but their magnificence remains a symbol of wealth and power.” Her book is about the ongoing development of the architectural forms of theaters as shaped by the art and science of acoustics.

Her opening chapter is a historical overview that begins with the theaters of ancient Greece and Rome. These were shaped in three basic arrangements for seating the audience: semi- or half-circle, fanshaped, and shoebox. The architects of the Renaissance, as they began to design opera houses and concert halls, added a fourth...

 
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