Camberley & District Probus Club

Royal Opera House Back Stage Tour & Covent Garden, 23rd February 2023

Article: Alan Boyd

Photos: Stephen Bishop

An excellent behind the scenes tour of the Royal Opera House with competent guides. Very informative.

We learned about the eventful history of the Royal Opera House (ROH). Two previous buildings burnt down. In Victorian times, going to the opera was a social event. You could hire your own box, bring in your own food, draw the curtains across the front of your box and undertake other activities. Queen Victoria was an enthusiastic patron, visiting up to 4 times a week, with her own entrance to the ROH. Into the auditorium for a ballet rehearsal, the dance was part of Wolfe Works, featuring themes from Virginia Wolfe’s books. The excerpt we were privileged to see had two females kissing, the first time this has occurred in a ballet. History being made.

Below stairs was the very extensive costume store, row upon row by production, with multiple costumes for when there were several costumes for that role and perhaps multiple performers for the same role and all labelled. All costumes are regularly fumigated to eliminate fungal growth. Scenery moving provided an example of modern technology with not only 6 large understage lifts, to move scenery up and down off the stage, but large pallets to move blocks of scenery to and from the extensive backstage. This ability to rapidly reconfigure means the ROH can stage 3 different productions in the same week. No other London theatre can achieve this. Recent investment in rebuilding and modern technology has resulted in spacious front of house and events which work very smoothly. Very impressive. Recommended for revisit.

Organized by Stephen Bishop.

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