The Royal Theater in Madrid
Maybe from the outside it isn’t the most impressive building in Madrid, but a marvelous surprise is hidden inside. The iconic Teatro Real (Royal Theater), established in 1850, surprises visitors with its elegant decoration, boundless luxury and wonderful acoustics. Without a doubt, this is a must-see for opera lovers in Madrid.
In total, the building has 22 floors (14 above and 8 underground) which house dressing rooms, rehearsal studios, workshops, scenography, etc. A miniature city in which more than 500 people work each day so that audiences can enjoy their shows each night. All told, the Teatro Real de Madrid has an area of more than 65,000 square meters (about 700,000 sq. ft.).
Traditionally, opera theaters are built near water because the sound quality is richer. However, the Teatro Real in Madrid is not built near the water, but over it. The theater sits on top of a huge aquifer. In fact, its location once caused serious structural problems to the building, leading to mandatory remodeling.
A sarcophagus-shaped theater
To some, it might not seem like the most appropriate shape for such a stately building as an opera house, but the Teatro Real de Madrid was designed in the shape of a sarcophagus. This curious choice did not go unnoticed by the Madrilenians of that time, eliciting criticism in the press.
No legend or mysteries of the occult are hidden behind this sarcophagus shape; the architects simply took advantage of the available land without affecting the surrounding buildings. This solution allowed them to maximize the space and save on costs.
More than 30 years under construction
This fantastic theater was the project of King Fernando VII, who wanted to give Madrid a grand opera house on the level of the major European capitals (Milan, Paris, Vienna, etc.). But it wouldn’t be an easy task.
In the same spot where the Teatro Real now stands, there used to be another: the Real Teatro de los Caños del Peral, built in the 18th century. First of all, the old Real Teatro de los Caños del Peral had to be demolished, because it was in very bad condition.
The ceremony of laying the first stone took place on April 23, 1818. However, the Teatro Real was not opened until 32 years later (1850). Political circumstances, the outbreak of the Carlist War and a lack of resources were the cause of constant delays in its construction. It was so held up that King Fernando VII never got to see it finished, with his daughter Isabel II being the one to inaugurate it.
Its opening was a huge success. Critics compared the Teatro Real de Madrid with the famous Scala in Milan, one of the most important theaters in the world. In fact, shortly after its opening, the theater received a visit from none other than Giuseppe Verdi, who was pleasantly surprised by the newly-inaugurated opera house in Madrid. Verdi’s visit was quite an event among Madrid’s high society.
If you want to discover the Teatro Real and many other places, book our Madrid Free Walking Tour. We are a small family business and we try to transmit our love for Madrid in every tour we give. After our tour, you’ll feel like an authentic madrileño.
-Capacity: 1750 people
–Address: Plaza Isabel II s/n
Today, the Teatro Real de Madrid organizes different guided tours that uncover the secrets of Madrid’s opera house. Along with your guide, you can visit the stage, workshops, dressing rooms, rehearsal studios, etc. More information: http://www.teatro-real.com/en/tours/guided-tours
People under 30 can enjoy the opera in Madrid for just €19 (90% discount). These tickets can only be purchased at the Box Office on the same day of the perfomance from 4PM (ID card is required).