Meet the Venue: Royal Opera House

The glass and iron Floral Hall at the Royal Opera House in London.

Throughout the UK, there are several venues that are specifically dedicated to the arts from beautiful art galleries to theatre and music venues. At Gallowglass, the Royal Opera House, London, is one of our favourites among this ever-growing list. This month we thought we’d share insight into the history of this magnificent building as well as the work our crewmen have carried out here since 2003.

Welcome to our next venue:

Name(s): Royal Opera House

Age: 161 years old (current theatre)

Location: Covent Garden, London

Size: 245.8m2 (performing area of the stage)

Capacity: 2,256

History:

The Royal Opera House has stood in Covent Garden for over 160 years and is one of London’s most majestic buildings. However, it is, in fact, the third theatre to be built in the area, with the previous two playhouses being destroyed by fire, which was a serious threat to theatres before the advent of large scale electricity.

John Rich, a budding actor, was the founder of the Royal Opera House, which at the time, was built as a standard theatre, funded by the proceeds of his extremely popular show, The Beggar’s Opera. But in 1808, a devasting fire burnt the theatre to the ground, taking the lives of 23 firemen who had tried to extinguish the blaze. However, after being rebuilt in the same year, the theatre bounced back and continued to draw spectators from far and wide with a selection of iconic performances.

In 1847 the theatre began to transform into the great opera house it is today, following the arrival of renowned composer and conductor Michael Costa and his band of singers. Relocating from Her Majesty’s Theatre in Haymarket, Costa’s entrance prompted the need for an updated auditorium, which once completed, was unveiled to the public with a stunning performance of Rossini’s Semiramide.

In 1857, after yet another decimating blaze, the present theatre was constructed for a third time by E.M. Barry, who designed the new building with the prominent glass and iron Floral Hall before opening it with a show-stopping performance of Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots in May 1858.

Finally, in 1892, the theatre was renamed the Royal Opera House after broadening its array of shows and has remained so ever since, being awarded royal charters of the Royal Ballet in 1956 and the Royal Opera in 1968. At the turn of the millennium, the theatre underwent a £178m transformation which has helped turn it into one of London’s most renowned buildings. New technologies, rehearsal facilities, a smaller auditorium and the contemporary Linbury Studio, were the newest additions while many other parts of the building were entirely refurbished including the Floral Hall, which now houses a selection of bars, restaurant and public areas for visiting audiences to enjoy.

Gallowglass at the Royal Opera House

As well as working with 72 of its associated clients, our team have provided direct support to this stunning London playhouse since 2003 and throughout that time have worked on a selection of exciting projects exclusive to the Royal Opera House. On average, we have around 100 of our crewmen working on location here every year depending on the itinerary of productions and events taking place. Along with carrying out a wide range of general tasks such as constructing staging, loading and unloading equipment and providing technical support, our team also get to work alongside some of the theatre world’s biggest stars while watching a series of shows develop – an exclusive privilege that’s only available to Gallowglass team members!

If you would like to know more about the wealth of iconic venues our teams often work at, why not take a look at the other instalments of our Meet the Venue series on our blog today? Alternatively, if you’re searching for event crew jobs in London, Leeds or Manchester, get in touch with us today to start building your career at Gallowglass.

About the author

Chairman, Gallowglass Group

Paul co-founded Gallowglass 21 years ago and has since expanded a single crewing operation into an international group of companies offering a complete range of support services for the events and entertainment industries.  His key input is to identify innovations and avenues for growth, and the wherewithal to broaden the Group's offering around the world.

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