The magnificent Royal Opera House has a fascinating history and is actually the third theatre built on the Covent Garden site (both previous theatres were destroyed by fire, a serious hazard in the era before electricity).
The current theatre opened in May 1858 with a performance of Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots. In 1892, with the repertoire broadening, the theatre was renamed the Royal Opera House. Winter and summer seasons of opera and ballet were given and between seasons the theatre was either closed or used for film shows, dancing, cabaret and lectures.
During the Great War the theatre became a furniture repository and during the Second World War a Mecca Dance Hall.
That’s how it might have remained if the music publishers Boosey and Hawkes hadn’t acquired the lease. The Opera House reopened in February 1946 with a performance of The Sleeping Beauty with Margot Fonteyn as Aurora. In December 1946 the embryo Covent Garden Opera teamed up with the ballet in a production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen choreographed by Frederick Ashton; the following January saw the company’s first performance of Carmen. Both companies were eventually awarded Royal Charters: the Royal Ballet in 1956, the Royal Opera in 1968.
Visit the Theatre and take a Backstage Tour. The Tours includes an introduction to the colourful history of the theatre, an insight into the redevelopment of the Royal Opera House and a look at aspects of current productions. As the Royal Opera House is a fully working theatre, each tour is a unique experience, and may include opportunities to see The Royal Ballet in class, or the magnificent backstage technology in operation.
The tours can run three times per day Mondays to Fridays, at 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm, and on Saturdays at 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm and 1.30pm.
All tours last approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.
Covent Garden (Piccadilly)
1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 26, 68, 76, 77a, 91, 168, 171, 176, 188, 501 (southbound only), 505, 521, X68 all go to the Aldwych, which is close to the Theatre.
Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD (Map)
Switchboard: 020 7240 1200
Box Office: 020 7304 4000
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