Royal Opera House | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Royal Opera House

London, England, United Kingdom

Sarah Roller

18 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Willy Barton / Shutterstock

About Royal Opera House

Home of the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House is one of England’s most iconic performing arts venues, and has an illustrious history.

History of the Royal Opera House

The first theatre on this site was the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, which was awarded letters patent by King Charles II in 1662: however, it was only actually built in the 18th century, following the financial success of The Beggars’ Opera. The new Theatre Royal opened in 1732 with a production entitled The Way of the World. 

In 1734, both ballet and opera began to be performed at the theatre, marking the start of a long and illustrious tradition: Handel regularly had seasons at the Theatre Royal and specifically wrote pieces to be performed there. In 1808, the first incarnation of the Theatre Royal burned to the ground following a devastating fire.

The second incarnation of the theatre lasted only 50 years before it too was lost to fire. Eventually, the third Theatre Royal to stand on the site opened in 1857: shortly afterwards, the Royal English Opera company moved to Covent Garden, making the theatre its permanent home. In 1892, the Theatre Royal Covent Garden was formally renamed the Royal Opera House and began to offer a much wider variety of opera and ballet.

During the First World War the building was requisitioned as a furniture repository, and during the Second World War it was briefly used as a dance hall. During the 1960s and 1970s,

major renovation projects were undertaken in order to modernise and stabilise the fabric of the building. In 1995, £213 million reconstruction took place, demolishing much of the original, and in 2014 the ROH embarked on the Open Up project in order to make the foyer and entrances more accessible and inviting.

The Royal Opera House today

The ROH remains very much in operation, and tickets are still sought after in many cases. There are assorted performances with cheaper tickets (although some do involve standing seats) if you’d like to experience the magic of the inner auditorium they way it was intended – red velvet, lots of gilt and tremendous acoustics.

Tours of the building run semi-regularly and can be booked in advance: they’re a great alternative if you’re not sure you want to sit through hours of opera or ballet, or if you’re pushed for time. The guides are informative and you’ll learn plenty about Covent Garden itself too.

Getting to the Royal Opera House

Located in the heart of Covent Garden, London, the ROH is approximately a 2 minute walk away from Covent Garden tube station, and 5 minutes away from Leicester Square and Temple tube stations too. You can get here on foot from most of London’s major landmarks, including Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. Buses stop on Aldwych/Strand heading across greater London.

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