Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House opened in its current form in 1858, having been destroyed twice by fire (once in 1808 and again in 1856). The current building is a design by E. M. Barry who also designed the Paul Hamlyn Hall - the iconic Floral Hall conservatory. Originally named the Theatre Royal Covent Garden, the building was given the new title of Royal Opera House in 1892 as a more fitting title for the types of work that were now being performed at the venue. The Opera House closed during the Great War, and was used as a Mecca Dance Hall in World War II. Fortunately, Boosey and Hawkes (the renowned music publishers) took over the lease of the building and reopened the house in 1946 with a ballet production of The Sleeping Beauty with Margot Fonteyn dancing the title role. From here, the Opera House began to assemble its own in-house opera company, and premiered its first production in December 1946 (Purcell’s The Fairy Queen) in association with the ballet company. The Covent Garden Opera Company’s first operatic production after the Second World War was Carmen in January 1947.
The building was extensively renovated in the late 1990s to update the facilities to meet the demands of modern productions and the advances in technology, and a smaller auditiorium (the 400-seater Linbury Studio) was built to house experimental productions and give new artists and new works a performing ground. The Royal Opera House reopened in December 1999 with a production of Falstaff starring Bryn Terfel.
The auditorium has five levels – Orchestra Stalls, Stalls Circle, Grand Tier, Balcony and Amphitheatre. The upper four levels are designed in a horseshoe design around the Orchestra Stalls and can feel rather removed from the stage. Boxes, lower and upper tier slips line the sides of the auditorium, but can offer side-on, restricted views. A thorough investigation of the seating plan is advised.