Until quite recently, it wasn’t very common to visit the Teatro Real of Madrid within the bounds of typical tourist routes, but if you’re a music, dance or architecture lover, you should live this experience as it may turn out to be one of the most memorable of your stay in the capital.
Located in the Plaza de Oriente, it’s a very pleasant walk from the Plaza España Skyline. You’ll be glad you included it in your itinerary, not only because of all the history and curiosities this building contains, or the spectacular architecture, but also because from the café it offers one of the most privileged views of the historic center of Madrid.
History of the Teatro Real of Madrid.
The place currently occupied by the Opera House of Madrid was formerly occupied by another cultural institution from the reign of Felipe V, the Royal Theatre of the Caños del Peral. However during the period of the war of independence it was completely abandoned.
It was with the arrival of Fernando VII to the throne that the remodeling of the Plaza de Oriente was initiated, including the demolition of the Caños del Peral Theatre to build an Opera Theatre in its place. In this way, Madrid had a musical coliseum at the height of the main European capitals.
The theatre we can contemplate today contains a complex history of abandonment, interruption and difficulties in its construction. The history of misfortunes of this building, which seems to be filled with the proverbial ghosts of opera, includes a fire and the crash of the 6,000 pound (2,700 kg) crystal chandelier into the courtyard. This forced its closure and reconstruction, which lasted 41 years. With a civil war in the mix it suffered even more damage, including the explosion of gunpowder in its interior.
It was reopened in 1966 as the Auditorium and central office of the Royal Conservatory of Music. Once more the building had to undergo the pick and shovel to be remodeled again and finally Madrid had a new Opera House.
All this history is hidden in the Neoclassical building, whose hexagonal floor plan is reminiscent of a casket and which Pascual Madoz, in his historical dictionary, refers to as “the most distasteful that a building of this class could have chosen” even though it survived a fire, a war and numerous reconstructions.
This Monumental Theatre stands in the heart of Madrid, facing the Royal Palace and next to the historic neighborhood of the Austrias.
Visiting the Teatro Real of Madrid
The Teatro Real offers a series of guided tours that include joint excursions to the Teatro Real and the Royal Palace.
You can visit the theatre from Monday to Sunday, 10am to 1pm, and tickets can be purchased from the Visitor’s Desk, located at the main entrance to the Teatro Real.
Choose between different visits:
If you’re interested in the inner workings of the construction, history, decoration and operation of the building, this is undoubtedly the option you should choose.
The visit includes a tour of the main lobby, the Foyer, with its 12 columns and 3 levels. It’s in this hall where those attending the productions can contemplate the rest of the public and wear their best to also, in turn, be observed.
You can also visit the Royal Balcony, and the lounges Falla, Carlos III, Vergara, Arrieta and Felipe V. A lovely tour of colorful rooms decorated with sumptuous carpets, Murano glass mirrors, tapestries, works of art from the Prado Museum and portraits of monarchs. A leap into a romantic past full of splendor.
Also included is access to the Palace Café, decorated with Lebanese cedar wood, plaster, marble and with works on loan from the Reina Sofía Art Center Museum.
But that’s not all, its windows offer one of the best panoramic views of the city, with a privileged perspective of the Royal Palace, the Cathedral of Almudena, the Oriente gardens and the Sierra (mountain range north) of Madrid.
For those who’d like to learn everything that goes on behind the scenes of a production. You’ll find out how they structure rehearsals, how each of the departments works, the role of the stage manager, the interior of the dressing rooms. All of that subworld that has to work like a well-oiled machine so the public can enjoy the spectacular staging of an opera.
It’s impossible not to be surprised with all the technical resources this building has, one of the most advanced in the world. In its 80 meter (262 feet) high stage box, the entire Telefónica building would fit.
Sets, scenery, curtains and lights are quickly mounted and disassembled thanks to a very sophisticated platform system that you can observe.
Includes school and other educational center visits.
Visit with Audio Guide
There’s also the option of visiting with an audio guide where you can do the tour at your own pace.
The visit is complemented by a photo exhibition and a virtual reality experience, where you can emulate being one of the great stars of the opera by climbing up onto its magnificent stage and looking out from spaces not accessible to the public.
Attend an Opera in the Teatro Real
You can find the programming of opera, dance, concerts and recitals from the Teatro Real website, in the programming tab.
Some tickets have to be purchased well in advance, so we recommend you plan with as much time ahead as possible to ensure you can get yours.
Curious Facts About the Opera House
There’s a myth in the world of opera that says buildings built near water have better acoustics. The Teatro Real isn’t just close, it’s actually located on top of an aquifer.
Its seating area in the shape of an Italian horseshoe has its “paradise”, with seats on the top floor where the sound arrives as if one were next to the stage, and “hell” or hen house, whose poor visibility has screens to compensate where you can contemplate the representation.
The beginnings of the Real in 1864 were filled with controversy; the performers didn’t like the space and the public often broke out into whistles, apparently one night when the tenor Nicolini was in a performance, he ended up crying before the shouts from the audience. Faced with these protests, when the tenor Gayarre acted, the roar of applause accompanied him until his exit and when he became ill, replaced by Stagno, the public was divided between defenders of one or another divo.
Giuseppe Verdi was one of the most celebrated composers with “the force of destiny”. As many as 11 times he had to go out to greet the public after his production.
The operas of Wagner were responsible for the fines that the Teatro Real’s managers had to pay due to the long duration of the pieces of the German composer, since a government order required productions to finish before 12:30.
If you’d like to experience an important piece of cultural history of Madrid, don’t skip this wonderful visit to the Teatro Real.