The Royal Theatre is celebrating its bicentenary

  • Culture

The Royal Theatre is celebrating its bicentenary

Façade of the Royal Theatre. Photo: EFE/Paco Campos (EFE)
Façade of the Royal Theatre. Photo: EFE/Paco Campos (EFE)

The opera has reason to celebrate in Spain. The Madrid Royal Theatre is about to commemorate a dual anniversary: its bicentenary and the twentieth anniversary since it reopened. An event of particular importance both for the institution and for performing arts in Spain, since the Madrid theatre has become one of the most prestigious venues in Europe and Spain’s leading opera house.

The bicentenary represents a fantastic opportunity to consolidate a project for the future which has been able to overcome all kinds of setbacks over time, thanks to its infinite cultural vocation and social commitment, alongside the status of public foundation which it now has.

On average, it stages some 180 performances of opera and ballet per season, as well as an extensive programme of concerts, recitals and exhibitions. Likewise, the Royal Theatre has stood out due to it paying careful attention to new audiences, promoting the enjoyment of opera amongst children through educational activities adapted to suit children of different ages, and which are attended by schools from all over Spain.

The management of the theatre, currently headed up by Ignacio García-Belenguer Laita, has always sought to achieve a balance between works from a classical repertoire and contemporary creations. Thanks to this, the Royal Theatre has become an unmissable venue for large international productions and a theatre of special interest to the best in singing, musical direction, dance and stage performance.

Three years of celebrations

These two commemorations have been declared “an event of exceptional public interest,” by way of recognition of the historic role played by the Royal Theatre and of its contribution to culture. As such, 2016 saw the start of a special programme and a collection of commemorative events which will culminate during the 2017-2018 season, years which span both anniversaries.

During this period, the Royal Theatre shall host 43 operas, 28 of them being performed for the first time, such as “Moses and Aaron,” by Arnold Schönberg, and “The Soldiers,” by Bernd Alois Zimmermann. Another noteworthy production is, “Joan of Arc at the Stake,” by Arthur Honegger, which is to be performed by Fura del Baus and will star the French actress Marion Cotillard.

Other productions are to be “Bomarzo”, an opera by the Argentinian Alberto Ginastera, which is co-produced with the Amsterdam Opera and directed by David Afkham, and “Yerma”, by the Brazilian, Heitor Villalobos, inspired by the work of the same name by Lorca. However, modernism will alternate with the great romantic operas and less well-known librettos from the baroque period and lyrical classicism, such as “Aida”, “Parsifal” and “The Puss in Boots.”

On the other hand, there will be two world premieres by Spanish composers: “The City of Lies” by the Sevillian, Elena Mendoza, based on stories by the Uruguayan writer, Juan Carlos Onetti, and “The Letter Opener,” a collaboration between the composer, Luis de Pablo, with the writer, Vicente Molina Foix. Likewise, the programme also includes an audio-visual project, the objective of which is the recovery of Spanish historical opera heritage spanning from the seventeenth century to the present day.

Travel the world through the Internet

Dance will also have a significant presence with companies such as the London Royal Ballet, the Vienna State Ballet, Sasha Waltz & Guests, Martha Graham Dance Company and, of course, the Spanish National Dance  Company and the Spanish National Ballet, among others.

The theatre can be visited daily with different guided tours, including backstage and the rehearsal and workshop room. For those people who cannot travel to Madrid, the Royal Theatre forms part of the Google Cultural Institute initiative which seeks to bring stage arts closer to the population using technology, and in which other great venues from around the world also participate, such as the Paris National Opera, Carnegie Hall in New York and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

This way, any Internet browser can visit the Royal Theatre space on Google Cultural and enjoy several virtual exhibitions enabling them to learn about its history, the details of its architectural structure and its cultural themes.

From Felipe V to Isabel II

In order to trace the origins of the Royal Theatre, we have to go back to 1738, when King Felipe V opened the Caños del Peral Royal Theatre, an event which included the staging of the opera “Demetrius,” by Johann Adolph Hasse.

Nowadays, the Royal Theatre is a public foundation, established by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and by the Madrid Region, and it is considered to be an Asset of Cultural Interest of Spanish Historical Heritage, within the “Historical Monument” category.