RUTH Breckman has written an easy-to-use travel companion, Selected Opera Houses for Everyone Around the World, for people who are into opera - and even those who aren't. The author talks to FLAMINIA GIAMBALVO

Ruth Breckman hopes her first book will be appreciated by all those with an interest in opera, not just the 'buffs'. In it, she travels the globe from London to Sydney via Chicago, Prague, Verona and many other places to discover operatic delights such as the Teatro della Scala and Sydney Opera House.

Ruth, who lives in Rowlands Avenue, Hatch End, encourages people to see the buildings themselves as more than just backgrounds to the classy entertainment, and to appreciate their magnificent structures.

Each opera house has its own history, architectural structure, and backstage stories.

For example, at the opera house in Boscombe, Dorset, security men will not enter the 'gods' (the highest circle seats) because they claim to have seen images of clowns and fading shadows.

At the exotic Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil, shown on the front cover of the book, you discover it was constructed by the rubber barons who wished to bring culture into the city of Manaus.

Ruth, 68, said: "You can learn more about a city from visiting its opera house than from the sightseeing of all its museums.

"These details and peculiarities can be appeciated by anyone who simply travelling."

The idea for the book came from Ruth's joint passions for travelling, writing and opera.

She says: "I have learnt late in life to enjoy opera."

Discovering that opera houses were open to the public sparked the initial idea for the book, which is Ruth's first.

She says: "It is never too late to pursue your dreams."

Although she would have liked to have taken up writing at a much younger age, her circumstances would not allow it.

She says: "I couldn't afford to take that risk, I had to start work at 16."

At the age of forty she entered the travel business. It was only after retirement she took a writing course and began thinking about a book.

She says "I found it very difficult to put my emotions into words and lacked confidence". Moreover, at times Ruth felt she was doing it alone.

Although receiving full support from her family, her friends doubted her. She says: "They would ask 'Why are you doing this? Writing is a lonely trade'."

But in the end she made it and wrote a timeless travel companion suitable for everyone.

Selected Opera Houses for Everyone Around the World is published by Athena Press, RRP £9.99