“Sometimes I hate you, sometimes I hate myself, but always I miss you.”
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
These quotes are from two of the forthcoming operas of the bi-centenary programme of the Teatro Real.
The Teatro Real was founded in 1817 when King Fernando VII ordered the redesign of the Plaza de Oriente to include an opera house which would rival other European establishments. In 1818, the building work was started by architect Antonio Lopéz Aguado. Due to limited funding the theatre took 33 years to complete in which time Aguado died. Custodio Teodoro Moreno and Francisco Cabezuelo took over the work and the Teatro Real finally opened its doors in 1850 with the opera La Favorita. The Teatro Real, looking out onto the Palacio Real, is located at the central entry of the crescent shaped Plaza de Oriente. Along with the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Teatro Real holds its distinguished position among the top three cultural institutions of Spain. Seemingly owing to its design, the building itself has had a dramatic life: it has been damaged by fire, explosion, flooding, and due to subsidence from the construction of the Metro of Madrid it closed in 1925 and stayed shut for 41 years. In 1966, the building reopened as a concert hall for the National Orchestra. The decision was made in the 1980s to renovate once again and work began in 1991. The renovations took 6 years which turned the Teatro Real into the opera house we know today with a 960 square-metre stage and 1,700 seats. It has been staging the best operas from around the world ever since.
Madame Butterfly is on stage from the 27th of June to the 21st of July. One of the most staged operas worldwide, Puccinis Madame Butterfly tells the story of a 15-year-old Japanese girl, Cio Cio San, who marries an American naval officer. The Teatro Real closes the 2016/17 season with Hamlet. Shakespeare was Giuseppe Verdi’s favourite author and Hamlet was the first of three Shakespeare plays Verdi composed. It is on stage from the 11th to the 17th of July. If you go to one of these wonderful musical extravaganzas, you should take the time for a cocktail in the Cafe de Palacio. With quality drink in hand, you can look out over the labyrinth of pathways adorned by statues of the Plaza de Oriente leading onto the Palacio Real as the view’s backdrop. You can also dine in the 300-seated restaurant, run by the two-star Michelin chef Ramón Freixar.
Freixar prepares the menu to harmonise with the current production so you can literally get a taste of the opera on stage from a Michelin star chef’s perspective. Besides going on a fabulous night out to an opera, the Teatro Real offers entertaining alternatives for a visit. There is a collection of tours visitors can choose from such as the General Tour, Artistic Tour, Technical Tour and Night Tour. The General Tour recounts the history of the theatre from its opening in 1850 to its refurbishment in 1997. During all tours visitors get to glimpse the behind-the-scenes production of a working opera house and, depending on which tour you go on, you can learn about the technical aspects of the stage, the process of preparing an opera set, the roles of the different wardrobe departments, the tasks of the stage manager, or even be present after the curtain falls. The daily tours are in Spanish, but can be held in English, German and French upon request. Prices and times vary, check the Teatro Real website for full details. If you have a bent for the dramatic and your love has reached the paradisiacal heights of so many tragic operas, you can book your wedding nuptials to be held right on stage. Your honoured guests can applaud the spectacle (or not) from the theatre’s seating. There are very limited dates for an operatic touch to your wedding day, only one or two ceremonies are held each year.
The Real Junior is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon with your family. Remember the excitement your children showed the first time you brought them to the cinema, well bring them to the Teatro Real and watch that excitement multiple. Upcoming shows for the Real Junior are El Gallo de Oro on the 28th of May and Alibabach on the 3rd & 4th of June.
If you havent been to the opera before or if you are a seasoned aficionado visiting a show during the bi-centenary celebrations, which run until the end of 2018, is a guaranteed wonderful night out. And you never know, you could leave the Teatro Real with wedding bells ringing in your ears.
El Teatro Real, Plaza de Isabel II.
Metro: Opera L2, L5. For details, prices and times of operas and tours check
By Brian Collins