Home » Famous London Buildings » A Short Guide to the Royal Opera House – Covent Garden

A Short Guide to the Royal Opera House – Covent Garden

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Royal Opera House main entrance

Location – Bow St, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD

The Royal Opera House is one of the premier venues for Ballet and Opera in the UK, it is home to the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera House Orchestra.

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Opera House and Floral Hall

It is the third theatre on the site, the previous two being destroyed by fires in 1808 and 1857. The original theatre on the site was called the Theatre Royal which was financed by John Rich who used the theatre to put on plays, it was not until 1734 that the first ballet was performed and it was a year later that Handel began to perform his opera’s in the theatre.

When the second theatre was built-in 1808 it became famous for the variety of acts that was put on, the famous clown Joseph Grimaldi headlined a number of shows and famous actors of the day played at the theatre, these included William Charles Macready and Edmund Kean.

(c) Theatre Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

‘Macbeth’ at Covent Garden ,Victoria and Albert Museum, 1760s Unknown

In 1847 the theatre was renamed the Royal Italian Opera until it burnt down in 1857 and remained the name of the new theatre until 1892 when it became the Royal Opera House. During the 20th century many of the stars of Opera and Ballet appeared on the stage, although it was used for other purposes during the First and Second World War.


Inside the Opera House

In the 1960s, the old theatre was showing its age and plans were put in place to refurbish the entire site. These improvements began in the 1980s but it was not until the 1990s that a full 215 million pound refurbishment was undertaken. Part of these changes as the acquisition of other buildings such as the Floral Hall which became part of the complex. When these changes were finished, the Royal Opera House was considered one of the finest in the world but received criticism that it was elitist and the seats were too expensive for ordinary people.

(c) Museum of London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Covent Garden Opera House,  Raymond Wylie, 1961,Museum of London

In response to this criticism the Royal Opera House have made changes to seat pricing to allow a certain amount of cheaper tickets available. Visitors to London who wish to visit the Royal Opera House for a Ballet or Opera will find that the more popular events still have expensive seats but the less popular are more reasonable and a wider range of choices. It is also possible to have a tour of the Opera House or see rehearsals although there is generally some charge.


Covent Garden Piazza side entrance

To look for events or buy tickets visit the Royal Opera House website here

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