The Teatro Real was founded in 1818, after King Fernando VII ordered the reconstruction of Plaza de Oriente in order to provide Madrid with an opera house to rival those already seen in other European countries. The project was first given to the architect Antonio López Aguado, and after his death responsibility for the building was handed to Custodio Teodoro Moreno and Francisco Cabezuelo. Finally, on 19 November 1850, the theatre opened its doors with the opera La favorita by Geatano Donizetti.
Some of the most influential artists and decorators of the era worked on the interior design of the building, including Rafael Tejeo, Eugenio Lucas, who painted the ceilings, and Humanité-René Philastre, who designed the front curtain. Apart from the main hall, which has the capacity for 2,800 spectators, there were two ballrooms, three lounges, a sweet shop, a café, a dressing room and a cloakroom.
The last renovation of the building was carried out between 1991 and 1997 under the direction of Francisco Rodríguez Partearroyo and José Manuel González Valcárcel, who made several additions to the building, including a conference room, exhibition hall, group dressing rooms for up to 324 people, 11 individual dressing rooms, 1,472m2 of rehearsal space and 3,485m2 of workshops and warehouses. The total floor space is currently 65,000m2, providing room for up to 1,750 people.