Opening of the Royal Opera House
As was all too often the case with London’s theatres in earlier centuries, the building on the site of what is now The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden suffered a series of fires. The current building, or at least the main elements of it, was hastily designed and constructed after the second incarnation was destroyed by fire on March 5 1856, as the first had been a little less than half a century before that.
The architect was Edward Middleton Barry, forever slightly in his father’s shadow – Charles Barry after all designed The Palace of Westminster – but with grand national projects like the opera house in his portfolio he was no mean designer in his own right.
It is remarkable that such a building could be designed and constructed in so short a time, able to reopen on May 15 1858 when Meyerbeer’s suitably grand opera Les Huguenots played.
To be accurate what Barry designed was not then The Royal Opera House, as it became in 1892, but The Royal Italian Opera, as it had been since 1847. He came up with a suitably Italianate, or at least Romanesque, style for the place, its famous Corinthian Portico making a statement about the grandeur of the establishment for those approaching it, but with a link to the previous theatre in that the facade there houses the one element of the burned building that could sensibly be salvaged – a frieze by Flaxman.
Links: http://info.royaloperahouse.org/Home/Index.cfm Royal Opera House
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