Royalty view fire ruins
Royal Opera House
Bow Street WC2E 9DD
The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Royal Opera House 3D location mapMap ©Silvermaze Ltd 2008 Royal Opera House photoPhoto ©Tony Reading 2008
Engraving of the Royal Box Covent Garden
Victorian Royal Box at the
Royal Italian Opera
Local Info
Top Class restaurants nearby;

Papageno (European)
29 Wellington Street
020 7836 4444

Mon Plaisir (French)
21 Monmouth Street
020 7836 7243
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A classic viewing of all the Theatreland play houses by night. The authentic commentary, by Ben Shafik - a player himself - gives an authentic feel to the West End's theatres - and is backed by real music.
Next version will be more upbeat as, suggested, to celebrate Britannia's unbeatable heritage.
(Over 6000 viewings and all good reviews to date).
Let us know what you think.

A note from the author

I took these pictures to show off London theatres as they are seen -most often - by theatre goers, at night.

Thanks to Ben Shafik for his lighthearted and informative commentary and Fionn O'Lochlainn for the original music.

Watch out for the new version with current liveries and the names of the theatres as they appear.



The Royal Opera House is the third building on this site dating from 1858 and was extensively refurbished in the 1990's. It is often refered to simply as 'Covent Garden' in theatre listings. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet and The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.

For current information on the extensive & varied repertoire of Opera and Ballet performances and other productions - and to book Click Here

The site of Covent Garden's Opera House was originally a nunnery attached to the Abbey of Westminster.

John Rich built the first theatre. He had succeeded to a patent originally granted to Sir William Davenant by Charles II to build a theatre "..wherein tragedies, comedies, plays, operas, music, scenes and all other entertainments of the stage whatsoever may be shown and presented"

The first theatre was opened on December 7th 1732 showing the 'Way of the World' by Congreve. Admission to the 55 boxes was 5 shillings (25 pence) half a crown (12 pence) to the 'pit' and the gallery cost one shilling (10 pence). A seat on the stage cost ten shillings. It was allowed to send servants to arrive at three to save places on the stage for their masters and mistresses. £115 was taken on the first night.

The fire of 1808 destroyed the theatre and the second one was built by Sir Robert Smirke. Three months after the fire Prince regent laid the foundation stone. It was much larger and was one of the largest in Europe. It was re-opened September 18th 1809 with a performance of Macbeth.

Opera goers enjoyed many seasons however between seasons the theatre put on many other forms of entertainment among which were the Promenade concerts of Jullien.

It ended at five to five in the morning of March the 5th 1856 with a fire that destroyed the theatre within half an hour - with no loss of life.

The third theatre took two years to re-build, funded by Frederick Gye. It was said that £100,000 was staked on the theatre not meeting the opening date. However those who doubted lost. It re-opened it's doors on May 15th 1858.

The evening at the opera cost the Victorian men of fashion about a pound. A verse in Punch defined a pound's value at the time as

"A pound dear father is the sum
That clears the opera wicket:
Two lemon gloves, one lemon ice,
Libretto and your ticket."

Source -
© 2017 Updated 11th Nov 2011