Royal Opera House

Covent Garden,

The magnificent Royal Opera House, with its grand classical portico fronting Bow Street, is actually the third theatre built on the Covent Garden site. Both the previous theatres were destroyed by fire, a serious hazard in the era before electricity.

Actor-manager John Rich built the first Theatre Royal, Covent Garden with the fortune he had made from the huge success of The Beggar’s Opera. At that time, under the terms of a Royal Patent, Covent Garden was only one of two theatres permitted to perform drama in the capital. The other patent theatre was the nearby Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and a keen rivalry soon developed between them.

The first important musical works to be heard at the theatre were by Handel, who, from 1735 until his death in 1759, had close links with Covent Garden both as composer and organist. Many of his operas and oratorios, including Alcina and Semele, were first performed there, and he left his theatre organ to John Rich. Extensive rebuilding work took place in 1787 and 1792, but in 1808 the theatre was completely destroyed by fire with the loss of twenty-three fireman as the building collapsed.

Work on a new theatre began immediately to designs by Robert Smirke. The Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone on the last day of 1808 and the theatre opened just over eight months later with a performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth starring the renowned brother and sister team of John Philip Kemble and Sarah Siddons. To help recoup the cost of the build, the management (including Kemble and Siddons) raised seat prices, a decision that proved so unpopular that audiences kept rioting until the old prices were restored.

In 1843, the Theatres Act ended the patent theatres’ monopoly of drama and the competition for audiences intensified. Three years later, Covent Garden scored a notable coup when the gifted composer and conductor Michael Costa joined the theatre from Her Majesty’s in the Haymarket, bringing most of his company of singers with him. Following the remodelling of the auditorium, the theatre reopened as the Royal Italian Opera in April 1847 with a performance of Rossini’s Semiramide. 

Map & Directions: Royal Opera House



WHEELCHAIR SPACES: Up to 19 across the main auditorium, 4 in the Linbury Studio and 2 in the Clore Studio. Please inform the Box Office of any further specific requirements when booking.


BSL INTERPRETATION: Yes, on select performances – please the Box Office for more information.

INDUCTION LOOP SYSTEM: Yes, in the Box Office, Information desk and bars. A Trantec radio system assisted-hearing facility is available in the main auditorium and the Linbury Studio.

GUIDE DOGS: Yes – please advise the Box Office when booking.

NEAREST TUBE/RAIL STATION: Covent Garden and Temple.

BUSES: 1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 26, 68, 76, 87, 91, 168, 171, 176, 188, 501 (southbound only), 505, 521 and X68.

NEAREST CAR PARKS: Drury Lane and Shelton Street. 


Royal Opera House - Events

Book Asphodel Meadows Tickets
Asphodel Meadows
Liam Scarlett's elegiac and classically inspired ballet, Asphodel Meadows, premiered at the Royal Opera House in 2010 and returns in 2018.Set to Poulenc's Concerto for Two...
Book Così fan tutte Tickets
Così fan tutte
Stefano Montanari conducts a cast of young and up-and-coming talent, including Thomas Allen, in a new production of Così fan tutte, Mozart and Da Ponte's opera on the...
Book Don Quixote Tickets
Don Quixote
The Royal Opera House presents Don Quixote, one of Marius Petipa's much loved 19th century classics. The story is drawn drom Cevantes's classic novel and set to Minkus's...
Book Katya Kabanova Tickets
Katya Kabanova
Katya Kabanova features rising stars Amanda Majeski and Pavel Cernoch in Richard Jones's production of the second work in Royal Opera House's Janácek cycle. Katya is...
Book La traviata Tickets
La traviata
Ermonela Jaho, Charles Castronovo and Igor Golovatenko lead three excellent casts in Richard Eyre’s much-loved production of Verdi’s most famous opera, La traviata...
Book The Queen of Spades Tickets
The Queen of Spades
Based on the short story by Alexander Pushkin, The Queen of Spades directed by Stefan Herheim comes to the Royal Opera House in 2019.The Queen of Spades is one of Tchaikovsky's...
Book The Royal Ballet School Tickets
The Royal Ballet School
The Royal Ballet School presents a new work choreographed by Liam Scarlett to demonstrate the skill of its talented young dancers of the future at the Royal Opera House. Schedule:-...