Thursday, 29 September 2011

Dancing in history in Covent Garden - Royal Opera House

Photographer Rob Moore

Oh my stars, I have just had the most fabulous visit to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden! It was part of a launch for a new skincare collection (more about that on, which has as its face the beautiful and extremely bendy ballet dancer Olivia Cowley.

As part of the product presentation a group of us were taken on a tour of the to the Royal Opera House and shown around the magnificent building. It is a place of two distinct halves: you have the original hall, built in 1858 and once host to the nobility of London including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, then you have the glass-dominated modern part, which was built at the end of the 1990s.

The original hall is the third Royal Opera House - the first two were destroyed by fire - and it is all opulence: rich dark wood, deep red silk lampshades and gold leaf. By contrast, the modern part of the building is light, airy and fantastically minimalist; both though are equally striking in their own way.

Photographer Rob Moore
I can't believe I have never visited this cultural landmark before (despite having lived in London for 17 years) and I totally loved the tour. Our guide was a scream, a genial chap who kept us all amused with his anecdotes and jokes. He led us from the huge horseshoe-shaped theatre to the ballet rehearsal room where the dancers were taking part in the first class of the day; from there we looked in at the costume department where a team of just six people create the thousands of costumes used by the company every year. Amazing.

To my surprise I also learned that tickets start from just £5 for the 'slips' - the highest part of the auditorium, in the gods and nearest the ceiling. Standing room only I think there! I don't know how much of the action on stage you'd see but it would be quite an experience - especially if you have a problem with heights. I do but I'm seriously thinking of booking up just to see what it feels like.

What I also didn't know is the two restaurants and cafe situated in the building are open to the public - next time I have a meeting in London I'm going to suggest meeting up there.

For culture vultures, history buffs, dance fans or never-do-anything-like-that novices, it's a spectacular location and I'd recommend a visit if you're in the capital.

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