Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

On Friday 20th October the OLs visited this amazing building. We were shown round the various departments within the Opera House: viewing the costume department where the performers are fitted for their outfits, and even had the privilege of viewing a complete company of dancers performing their routines, with some famous names amongst them. 

The outside view of the building is beautiful as shown in the photo: as also is the adjoining building, the original Covent Garden fruit market, now purchased by the opera house for conversion into an annexe to the main building: as in photo bottom right.

We were not allowed into the main auditorium, shown bottom left, as there were rehearsals in progress, but through a live video feed we were able to see that the stage can be, and was, split into a left and right half. In each of these half-a-stages there was a separate rehearsal in progress, simultaneously performing quite different parts of the production. We were told that this doubling up of the stage can be quite useful for depicting the story be performed live. 

The Royal Opera was formed as the Covent Garden Opera Company in 1946, but behind it lies a tradition of operatic performance which goes back for more than 260 years at its home in Covent Garden. The present theatre was built in 1858. During World War II it was used as a dance hall but after the war the idea of public subsidy of the arts was accepted and the decision was made to establish the Royal Opera House as the permanent year-round home of the opera and ballet companies now known as The Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet. It was the ballet company which reopened the building on 20 February 1946 with The Sleeping Beauty. On 14 January 1947, Covent Garden Opera Company gave its first complete opera performance, Bizet’s Carmen.

All-in-all a very fascinating tour.

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