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Royal Opera House
Royal Opera House
Address: Great Russell Street
Telephone: 020 7636 1555
Sat-Wed 100-1730, Thur-Fri1000-2030. Great Court: Sun-Wed 0900-1800, Thur-Sat0900-2300. Reading Room: Sat-Wed 1000-1730, Thur-Fri 100-2030. Closed Good Friday. Admission Free.


Introduction to Royal Opera House, London

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. In each of the three theatres there have been on the site since 1732, opera has played an important role.

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. The two Companies combined for Purcell's The Fairy Queen that December, and on 14 January 1947, Covent Garden Opera Company gave its first complete opera performance, Bizet's Carmen.

Over the last two decades The Royal Opera has enlarged its reputation with an imaginative range of repertory and award-winning new productions. These have included the British première of Berio's Un re in ascolto, the first productions at Covent Garden of Borodin's Prince Igor, Janácek's The Cunning Little Vixen and Kát'a Kabanová, Rossini's Guillaume Tell and Il viaggio a Reims, Mozart's Mitridate, re di Ponto, Berlioz's La damnation de Faust and Prokofiev's The Fiery Angel. The Company's commitment to contemporary opera was seen in the world première of Harrison Birtwistle's opera Gawain in 1991, and the world premiere of Nicholas Maw's Sophie's Choice in December 2002. The recording of Gawain won the Contemporary Category of the 1996 Gramophone Awards.

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