A chance to get intimate with elite artists
London’s Royal Opera House is one of the cultural landmarks of the UK. The home for both The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet, the opera house has always been a beacon of excellence but it’s always seemed a bit of an unwelcoming kind of place.
Opera and ballet aren’t necessarily the most accessible art-forms, and unless you were holding an expensive ticket to one of the productions in the main auditorium, you were unlikely to have a sense of what lay within the imposing building in Covent Garden.
However, with the completion of major three-year construction project that cost over £50m, the Royal Opera House has not only created a new state of the art theatre - the Linbury Theatre - but has also transformed itself into an interactive cultural hub that is open to the public.
The Linbury Theatre
The construction project has been led by architects Stanton Williams. The centrepiece of the renovation of the Royal Opera House is the new Linbury Theatre - a 406-seat theatre with all the technology and flexibility you’d expect of a newly constructed performance space.
Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera, was enthusiastic in his anticipation of what the Linbury Theatre will bring to the opera house.
“I have lots of hope for this place…” said Pappano, standing on the stage of the Linbury. “It has the right spirit.”
Pappano highlighted the warmth of the wood that has been used throughout the interior of the theatre, the audience almost encircling the stage. “This is a theatre that embraces you…” continued Pappano. “It creates a community to watch dance. It really is extraordinary.”
The public spaces
The newly renovated Royal Opera House is now open to the public from 10 AM each day. Bringing some vibrancy to the building is a program of immersive events - festivals, family-friendly activities, tea dances, workshops, and informal recitals.
One of the highlights to look out for is the Month of Sundays program, which will feature a series of workshops that will focus on dance, singing, and prop-making. “The workshops will enable people to immerse themselves in the world of the Royal Opera House…” explained Jillian Barker, Director of Learning and Participation at the Royal Opera House.
Returning to the Royal Opera House will be the popular Tea Dances, which have been on hiatus during the construction project. Accompanied by a live orchestra, you can live out your Strictly Come Dancing fantasies as you tackle the tango, the waltz, or the quick-step. You need to book in advance if you want to pull on your dancing shoes, these sessions book out quickly.
The 2018/2019 program
- The opening season for the Linbury features four world premieres, including Gavin Higgins’s new opera The Monstrous Child, based on Francesca Simon’s novel of the same name.
- Directors and choreographers participating include Ivo van Hove, Aletta Collins, Adele Thomas, Wayne McGregor and Timothy Sheader.
- Co-producers and visiting companies and artists include Alessandra Ferri, National Dance Company Wales, Introdans, Cas Public, Ballet Black, Yorke Dance Project, Lost Dog, London Handel Festival, Isango Ensemble and Muziektheater Transparant.
- Ticket prices range from £5 to £45, with 25 percent of seats priced at £25 or less.
With such a radical overhaul of the building, and a renewed focus on being more accessible and welcoming, first impressions of the 2018/2019 program is that feels relatively traditional and a bit safe.
However, Alex Beard - Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House - insists that while the artists creating and performing the work are elite and the best in the world, the Royal Opera House is determined not to be seen as elitist. “Watch this space!” declared Beard enthusiastically. “Watch this space!”