Situated in Covent Garden, London, and often referred by the name of it’s location, The Royal Opera House is one of the most important opera theaters in the world, it houses The Royal Ballet, The Royal Opera and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
The theater opened its doors on the 7th of December of 1732, the first ballet was presented in 1734 and the first opera was staged in 1735 by its first director Georg Friedrich Haendel.
The first opera was Il pastor fido followed by Ariodante (1735), the première of Alcina, and Atalanta the following year.
Besides historical facts of common knowledge we will share in the next lines some interesting facts about this great institution.
The building has 10 floors with color coded areas and a staff of circa 1000 employees.
The auditorium is built in a horseshoe shape and has hard wood floors so that it’s acoustics enhance the all natural sound of voices and instruments, as no sound amplification is used.
The stage is built on a hydraulic system that allows it to raise and descend more than 4 meters up and down. The orchestra pit accommodates 107 musicians and it is also of adjustable height, suitable for stage concert, opera or chamber music.
The backstage fits 7 stages and has a wagon system in place, built by Rolls Royce, that allows quick set changes between acts or between different productions. In the past, changing the stage set between productions would have taken up to 9 hours of labor. Now, with the wagon system, it can be done in as little as 20 minutes!
There are usually 3 productions on stage during the same time, one leaving and a new one coming, with an upcoming premiere every 8 days. The calendar of opera season is planned 5 years in advance, the stage director is appointed 2 years before the premiere and the production manager, 1 year to the staging date.
We were there for the latest production of Benjamin Britten’s “Death in Venice” (subject to a future article) and the most impressive detail of our visit was the simplest natural statement we found on the cast printout: “Our staff are committed to treating everyone with dignity and respect, and we ask that you show them and your fellow audience members respect too. We adopt a zero tolerance approach in response to anyone who behaves in an intimidating, aggressive or threatening manner.”
Other than its interesting history facts and numbers, the Royal Opera House is an arts sanctuary, a professional example of ethics and sustainability, a place that houses incredible productions and an incredible crew. It is a place where you can feel the love and respect for art, as well as the profound respect and care for it’s artists and staff members.
It is a true honor and inspiration having met such an amazing institution!
A special thanks goes to David K., the most brilliant host!