History of the Theatre
The origins of the current location of the Teatro Real go back to 1738, under the reign of King Philip V, when the Real Teatro de los Caños del Peral was inaugurated with the staging of the opera Demetrio, composed by Johann Adolph Hasse with a libretto by Pietro Metastasio. A noted event in the theatre’s history, this Teatro hosted in 1814 the gathering of the Cortes Constituyentes (Parliament) of Cádiz, after their move to Madrid from San Fernando de Cádiz until their relocation to the Doña María de Aragón monastery, current seat of the Spanish Senate.
Origins of the Teatro Real
In 1817, King Fernando VII orders, through a Royal Decree, the remodelling of the Plaza de Oriente and the design and construction of an opera house on the same building spot that had been used by the Real Teatro de los Caños del Peral until the previous year. The first stone was laid in April 1818. The initial design and construction work of the Teatro Real were lead by architect Antonio López Aguado, with long stops and periods of neglect, caused by the lack of funding and the death of the architect (later replaced by Custodio Teodoro Moreno). The works were only completed in 1850, 33 years after their start.
On 19 November of that year, after an expenditure of 42 million reales, the theatre was opened with a performance of La favorita, by Donizetti. During the next seventy-five years, the Real became a major European theatre, where the best voices of the moment came to perform: the tenors Julián Gayarre, Giovanni Mario and Enrico Tamberlick, the soprano Rosina Penco and the famous diva Adelina Patti.
After 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 performed uncut, but with each performer singing in their own language, while La Walkiria was performed translated into Spanish.
In October 1925, a collapse caused the temporary closure of the theatre, and the start of reconstruction works that would extend indefinitely without the Teatro Real being reopened. The Civil War meant that construction work could not be continued, and a powder magazine even exploded inside the building, further complicated building works in the post-war period.
In 1966, after forty years of closure, the Teatro Real reopened as a concert hall as the venue for the Spanish National Orchestra. This period lasted until the eighties, when the decision was made to turn the building into an opera. Restoration work began in 1991, first under the direction of architect José Manuel González Valcárcel and then continued after his death by Francisco Rodriguez Partearroyo, who finished the building in 1997. The Fundación del Teatro Lírico was established at the same time, to carry out artistic projects and manage the theatre. In addition, on 30 July, 1993, the Ministry of Culture declared the building to be of cultural interest, designating it as a monument.
Finally, the Teatro Real reopened as an opera house on 11 October 1997 with a performance of the ballet El sombrero de tres picos and the opera La vida breve, both by Manuel de Falla. One week later, the first début performance was shown: Divinas palabras, by Antón García Abril.
Since then, the Teatro Real has welcomed worldwide opera débuts: Don Quijote, by Cristóbal Halffter (2000), La Señorita Cristina, by Luis de Pablo (2001), Dulcinea, by Mauricio Sotelo (2006), El viaje a Simorgh, by José Mª Sánchez Verdú (2007), Faust-Bal, by Leonardo Balada (2009), La página en blanco, by Pilar Jurado (2011), Poppea e Nerone, by Monteverdi-Boesmans (2012), The Perfect American, by Philip Glass (2013), Brokeback Mountain, by Charles Wuorinen (2014), El Público, by Mauricio Sotelo (2015), La ciudad de las mentiras, by Elena Mendoza (2017) y El pintor, by Juan José Colomer (2018).
As for dance, the Teatro Real has also shown world débuts of over twenty different shows choreographed from 1997 to the present days, including the following La Celestina, by Carmelo Bernaola (1997-98), C(h)oeurs, by Marc Piollet and Alain Platel, (2011-12), Lo Real, by Israel Galván (2012-13) and a dozen different shows by the Spanish National Dance Company at the Teatro Real (Royal Theatre), such as Falling Angels ( 2003-04), by Steve Reich, Herrumbre (2004-05), by Pedro Alcalde and Ofrenda de sombras (1999-00), by Nacho Duato.