Behind-the-scenes with ROH Collections
We take a look at what goes on at the Royal Opera House over the summer.
There may not be any productions on the Covent Garden main stage over August, but the Royal Opera House has still been very busy: for two weeks every summer the building closes for essential maintenance and redecoration. It has been almost 15 years since the re-development of the Royal Opera House, and some of the frequently used areas of the building are now in need of a little bit of TLC. This year, the elaborate Crush Room, the Conservatory and Royal Entrance are getting a makeover before the new Season begins this month.
The public areas of the ROH contain many historic fixtures and fittings, as well as furniture, sculptures and artwork, all of which come under the responsibility of the ROH Collections Department. Some of these items have been in place since 1858, when the third theatre on the site opened, following the incineration of the second theatre. Before any maintenance work could begin, all of these precious items had to be either removed or covered and protected in order to prevent them from being damaged.
In the Crush Room, where guests can dine in grand surroundings before an evening of opera or ballet, affected items included ornate light fittings, oil paintings, decorative sofas, cut glass chandeliers and one very large 19th-century mirror. Over the course of three days, specialist art handlers K-Pak were drafted in to undertake this work. While the majority of items have been stored off site for the duration of the maintenance period, the oil paintings have gone to our conservators Plowden & Smith for a well deserved clean.
In the Royal Entrance and Staircase, the items date back to the reign of Queen Victoria, who was a keen opera goer and a regular visitor to the Royal Opera House. Items including a beautiful 19th-century Adam revival mirror, a marble bust of composer Alfred Mellon and two ornate light fittings had to be removed or covered before the painters moved in. Once the decorators finished and the paint dried, all the items were returned and uncovered, ready to start the new Season in their revitalised surroundings.
ROH Collections works closely with conservators to monitor and maintain the Royal Opera House and its historic contents. This year, a frieze of Queen Victoria in the Auditorium was also conserved. The department also has an extensive archive that chronicles the history of the three theatres that have stood on the Covent Garden site since 1732. Visit ROH Collections for more information.
You can find out more about the Royal Opera House on one of our backstage tours. For full details, visit our Tours page.