The History of the Teatro Real

A brief walk through the history of the Teatro Real, from its origins in the 18th century to its reopening in 1997.

TEATRO REAL E. de Letre dib.º y Lit.º (1864) by Eusebio Lettre (s. XIX) and Biblioteca Nacional de EspañaTeatro Real

The origins of the Teatro Real

Fernando VII, by Royal Order of 7th of January 1817, ordered the remodelling of the Plaza de Oriente and the construction of an opera house on the same site, which, scarcely a year earlier, had been the location of the Real Teatro de los Caños del Peral. He commissioned the works on 1st of October 1817,n the first building work began and the first stone of the Teatro Real was placed on 23rd of April 1818.

Corte vertical del Teatro Real por su mayor longitud (1850) by Massinger, E. s. XIX and Biblioteca Nacional de EspañaTeatro Real

The architect, Antonio López Aguado, was put in charge of the initial design and construction of the Teatro Real. With major interruptions and periods of abandonment, caused by the lack of money and by the death of the architect and his replacement by Custodio Teodoro Moreno, the work was not finished until 1850, 33 years after it had begun.

Plaza de Oriente con el Teatro Real de Madrid al fondo (ca. 1853) by Charles Clifford (1819-1863) and Biblioteca Nacional de EspañaTeatro Real

On the 19th of November, after an investment of 42 million reals, the theatre opened with a production of La favorite, by Donizetti.

Over the next seventy-five years, the Real became a major European theatre, where the best voices of the time came to perform: tenors Julián Gayarre, Giovanni Mario and Enrico Tamberlick, soprano Rosina Penco and the famous diva Adelina Patti.

Lista por orden alfabetico de los artistas que han de funcionar en la presente temporada 1872 a 1873 (1872) by Biblioteca Nacional de EspañaTeatro Real

Following the revolution of 1868 and the exile of Queen Isabel II, the theatre was renamed as the Teatro Nacional de la Ópera.

There are several interesting anecdotes from this period: Parsifal was shown uncut, but with each performer singing in his or her own language, while the Die Walküre was performed for the first time in Spanish.

Madrid: 20 tarjetas postales [13] - Teatro Real (ca. 1905) by Hauser y Menet and Biblioteca Nacional de EspañaTeatro Real

In October 1925, a flood caused the temporary closure of the theatre and the start of restoration works which would last 41 years, and the theatre never reopened.

The Spanish Civil War (with the explosion of an arsenal kept inside the building) and the difficulties of the post-war period hampered the work even more, and it remained almost at a standstill.

Interior of the Teatro Real as a concert hall (1986) by EFETeatro Real

Concert hall

In 1966 it was opened to the public as a concert hall and the home of the Royal Music Conservatory and School of Dramatic Arts.

Last concert at the Teatro Real before its reopening as an opera theatre (1988) by EFE/ D. BlancoTeatro Real

The last concert takes place the 13th of October of 1998, performed by the Spanish National Orchestra, with the same programme with which it was inaugurated: Homenajes, by Manuel de Falla, and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

La vida breve (1997) by Estela GarcíaTeatro Real

The work to restore it as an opera house began on 2nd of January 1991; this time the work would take almost 7 years.

On the 11th of October 1997 and under the presidency of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, the Teatro Real reopens as an opera house with the opera La vida breve, by Manuel de Falla. A week later, it hosted the world première of Divinas Palabras by Antón García Abril.

Credits: Story

Curator: Jorge Féliz

Biblioteca Nacional de España - Biblioteca Digital Hispánica

EFE/D. Blanco

Estela García

Teatro Real

Credits: All media
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