11 Secrets Of London’s Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is one of the world’s leading opera houses. Here are our favourite facts about this incredible London institution.
The Royal Opera House. Photo by Tony Hawkins.
1. Third time lucky
The current building is the third theatre on the site following disastrous fires in 1808 and 1856.
An illustration of the first theatre drawn shortly before it burned down in 1808.
The first, the Theatre Royal, opened in 1732, before burning down in 1808. The second opened just eight months later (1809) and survived until March 1856, when another fire destroyed the theatre.
An 1810 illustration of the auditorium of the second theatre on this site shortly after opening.
A third theatre, designed by Edward Middleton Barry, opened in 1858. This was a fireproof building in a regular classical design, and alongside it Barry built the Floral Hall in 1858-9. The Floral Hall was a glass-and-iron structure intended to serve as a concert hall a
exe and winter garden. The theatre became the Royal Opera House in 1892.
Today’s fau00e7ade, foyer, and auditorium date from 1858, but almost every other element of the present complex of buildings dates from the extensive reconstruction which took place between 1996 and 1999.
2. The Opera House… in Borough Market?
Next time you’re heading to Roast in Borough Market, look up.
The fau00e7ade grafted onto this particular part of Borough Market is actually the old E M Barry-designed Floral Hall from the Royal Opera House, which was put in storage when the Opera House was done up in the 1990s.
The portico at Roast used to be the Floral Hall in the Royal Opera House.
It was bought by Borough Market for u00a31 and added to the building around 2003. In 2008, it was awarded Grade II-listed status (we’re amused to see that Historic England thinks ‘ the interior is not of special interest’: unless, presumably, you really want a roast di
3. It’s hosted some impressive ‘firsts’…
The Covent Garden site lays claim to various firsts: Pygmalion, performed in 1734, is said to be the first ‘ballet d’action’. That is, a ballet presented more like our modern understanding of ‘classical ballet’, with a story told through dance.
The then-Theatre Royal also hosted the first performances of many of Handel’s operas, including Il pastor fido, Ariodante, Alcina and Semele.
4. …including the first time a piano was played in public
The first public performance on a piano in England took place on 16 May, 1767, at what is now the Royal Opera House.”