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Main Stage

The majestic stage of the Royal Opera House’s historic auditorium.

The auditorium of the Royal Opera House is the largest of London’s Victorian theatres. The current theatre, the third on its site in Covent Garden, was built in 1858 and designed by E.M. Barry. The auditorium seats 2,256 people, in a horseshoe structure modelled on the theatre design popular in Italian opera houses of the 19th century. In the 1997–9 refurbishment of the Royal Opera House a number of innovations were introduced to the main stage and auditorium, though the overall structure has remained largely the same. These innovations included the new fly tower (a system for moving sets and equipment, now 37m high), designed in a classical style to match the rest of the building’s exterior.

The proscenium arch of the main stage is 12.3m high and 14.8m wide and is flanked by gilded barleycorn twists. The inner twists can be adjusted to narrow the proscenium by up to 2m. The house curtains are crimson with gold trimmings and weigh nearly three tons. The performing area of the stage is 245.8m2. The orchestra pit, of an adjustable height, can accommodate up to 90 players. The main stage and backstage areas are operated by a ‘wagon system’ of moveable floors, introduced in the 1997–9 redevelopment. This allows some scene changes (within works or between productions) that take just 40 seconds. There are currently 21 wagons for opera and six for ballet, the latter with sprung floors.

Upcoming productions

Don Carlo

  • The Royal Opera
  • 12–29 May 2017

Bertrand de Billy conducts a cast led by Bryan Hymel and Kristin Lewis in Nicholas Hytner’s acclaimed production of Verdi’s opera on love, ambition and intrigue in 16th-century Spain.

Friends Rehearsals

  • 17 May—3 July 2017

Friends of Covent Garden have the opportunity to purchase tickets to open rehearsals.

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude / Tarantella / Strapless / Symphonic Dances

  • The Royal Ballet
  • 18–31 May 2017

Virtuoso dance from The Royal Ballet in a programme that includes Forsythe and Balanchine classics, Wheeldon’s 2016 narrative ballet and a Scarlett world premiere.

L'elisir d'amore

  • The Royal Opera
  • 27 May—22 June 2017

Laurent Pelly’s sunny production of Donizetti’s joyous opera returns with two world-class casts, led by Pretty Yende and Liparit Avetisyan, and Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna.

The Dream / Symphonic Variations / Marguerite and Armand

  • The Royal Ballet
  • 2–10 June 2017

The Royal Ballet brings its celebrations of 70 years at the Royal Opera House to a close with a mixed programme of works by its Founder Choreographer Frederick Ashton.

La traviata

  • 14 June—4 July 2017

Ekaterina Bakanova and Corinne Winters lead two excellent casts in Richard Eyre’s much-loved production of Verdi’s most famous opera.