Royal Opera House
7 Bow Street,
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Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Official)
Architects: Edward M. Barry
Previous Names: Royal Italian Opera, Royal English Opera, Theatre Royal, Royal Opera
The current Royal Opera House, Covent Garden is the third theatre to be built on this site. The first theatre was opened in 1732 as the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, it was designed by Edward Shepherd. It was modernised by Henry Holland in 1791, and burnt down in 1808. The second theatre was designed by Sir Robert Smike (architect of the British Museum), and was redesigned by Benedict Albano as the Royal Italian Opera House in 1847. This burnt down in 1856.
The current Royal Opera House was designed by architect Edward M. Barry, son of Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the Palace of Westminster(Houses of Parliament). The Grecian portico on the front of the building was saved from the previous theatre. It opened on 15th May 1858 as the Royal Italian Opera with "The Huguenots" by Meyerbeer. Originally seating 1,897, with boxes on the stalls circle, Royal circle and amphitheatre levels. Today, the boxes have been removed in the Royal circle and amphitheatre levels, but have been retained in the stalls circle level. The auditorium is horse-shoe shaped, to allow for people to be seen (in some cases rather than actually getting a good view of the stage!)
The Royal Opera House is the main opera house in the United Kingdom, and it has seen many triumphs over the years. It was also known as the English Opera, and the Theatre Royal. From 1892 until 1939 it was the Royal Opera, and since then, the official name has been the Royal Opera House.
Besides opera performances (by the Royal Opera Company), and ballet performances (by the Royal Ballet Company), the theatre has had other uses. It was used as a Government store during World War I. The film "The Three Musketeers" starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was screened for a season, beginning on 19th December 1921. In 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, the theatre was taken over by Mecca Dancing and became a Mecca Dance Hall. In February 1946, it re-opened as the Royal Opera, with performances by Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company (later to become the Royal Ballet Company). In 1972, while the historic Covent Garden Market was still operating (it closed in 1974) the Covent Garden area was used extensively by Alfred Hitchcock as a location for his film “Frenzy”.
The Royal Opera House was given a major refurbishment, funded by the National Lottery, which was completed on 4th December 1999 when it was re-opened. The Royal Opera House is a Grade I Listed building, with the adjacent Floral Hall building, now used as an enlarged entrance and for other facilities, Listed Grade II.
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