Where? Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD
When? Tours run daily but they are very popular and do book up well in advance.
How? You can check times and book on their website
Cost? Full price £12, senior citizens and students £11, under 18’s £8.50
Duration? About 1 hour and 15 minutes
The Royal Opera House is one epic building. Substantially renovated 1997-1999 it runs a huge repertoire of world-class opera and ballet, both new productions and revivals. Two previous theatres on this site burned down (a sadly typical tale in theatre history!) and the current building dates from 1858.
Not all tours get to go into the beautiful auditorium but mine was lucky enough to do so (Monday 10.30am – we managed to slip in just before a rehearsal of Eugene Onegin) I’ve seen a few things here – Romeo and Juliet, Aida, Swan Lake – but I couldn’t claim to be a frequent visitor so it was lovely to see the space again. (If you really want to see the auditorium, you can take a Velvet Gilt and Glamour history tour).
However, even without the auditorium, the backstage tour would still be a terrific experience and there is an absolute plethora of things to see. For this reason, no two tours of this maze-like building are ever quite the same.
The mind boggles at how much information these guides need to carry with them!
What I loved about this tour is the real sense you get of the ROH as a working building. Our extremely professional and knowledgeable guide led us through busy backstage spaces and it really feels like you’re experiencing a genuine slice of ROH life.
We got to see a ballet class and had a peek at the incredible machinery that allows swift changes from one complete set to another. Then we stopped by the costume stockroom where the lovely staff were kind enough to share their expertise. They explained all about how the costume department works at the ROH, and their roles in particular, as well as answering all of our questions. It was absolutely fascinating.
I know several people who have been on this tour again and again and I can see why. There’s a wealth of things to see and the tour is generously allowed into as many spaces as possible.
Verdict: Absolutely brilliant. The Royal Opera House is an amazing building and this is a high-quality tour experience. Treat any opera or ballet fan, or indeed any kind of theatre aficionado to this and they will thank you forever. One warning – you will almost certainly feel an overwhelming desire to return for another tour…I know I do!
For more information visit the Backstage Theatre Tours website!