History of the Theatre

Our background

The origins of the current Teatro Real site can be dated to 1738, during the reign of Philip V, when the Real Teatro de losCaños del Peral opened with a production of the opera Demetrio, composed by Johann Adolph Hasse and with a libretto by Pietro Metastasio. Notably, in January 1814 this theatre was the venue for the sessions of the Constitutional Courts of Cadiz after they were transferred to Madrid from San Fernando (Cadiz) and until they moved again on May 2nd of the same year to the Monastery of Doña María de Aragón (now the Palace of the Senate).


Origins of the Teatro Real

In 1818, during the reign of Ferdinand VII, building work began on the Teatro Real. The first stone was laid on April 23 1818, after a Royal Order to remodel the Plaza de Oriente and build an opera house on the plot where the Real Teatro de losCaños del Peral had stood just one year before. The King set in motion the construction of an opera house which could compare with the best in Europe.

The initial design and construction were the responsibility of architect Antonio López Aguado. However, the work did not run smoothly. There were frequent lengthy interruptions, first due to lack of funds, and then with the death of the architect and his replacement by Custodio Teodoro Moreno. Construction would not be completed until 1850, 33 years later, although the building was used in the interim to house the Congress of Deputies in 1841. From November 19, 1850, during the reign of Isabel II, and for the next 75 years, El Real would become one of the leading theatres of Europe.


After the 1868 revolution and the exile of Queen Isabella II, it was renamed Teatro Nacional de la Ópera. In October 1925, the theatre had to close due to subsidence and reconstruction work began, which would continue for another 41 years. The theatre did not reopen; a munitions explosion inside the building during the Civil War, and the difficulties of the post-war period, brought the building work to a standstill.

In 1966 it was opened to the public as an auditorium and the address of the Royal Conservatory of Music and School of the Dramatic Arts. Without doubt, however, Madrid felt the need for an opera house to rival the best in the world.

The last concert, by the National Orchestra, was held on October 13, 1988. Work to restore the building for its original purpose as an opera house began on January 2, 1991 and would continue for nearly 7 years.

The Reopening

On October 11, 1997 King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía officially reopened the Teatro Real, reconstructed first by José Manuel González Valcárcel, and after his death, by Francisco Rodríguez de Partearroyo.  On the programme for the inaugural performance was the opera La Vida Breve and the ballet El Sombrero de TresPicos, by Manuel de Falla. A week later was the world première of Divinas Palabras by AntónGarcía Abril.

Since its reopening in 1997, El Real has presented ten more operatic world premières: Don Quixote 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),  El pintor by Juan José Colomer (2018) and Je suis narcissiste by  Raquel García- Tomás (2019), Marie, by Germán Alonso (2020), Tránsito, by Jesús Torres (2021), El abrecartas, by Luis de Pablo (2022) y Extinción, by Señor Serrano Group (2022).



2007 - Present

In December 2007, coinciding with the beginning of the economic crisis, at the initiative of the Ministry of Culture, the Teatro Real was endowed with the autonomy of the main cultural institutions of the State, with the appointment of the first independent president, Gregorio Marañón, elected, at the proposal of the Minister of Culture, from among the independent members of the Patronato for five-year terms.

This date marked a milestone and the beginning of the constitution of the current model, as it guaranteed the autonomy of the institution and distanced it from the political ups and downs to which it had been subject, which has made it possible to consolidate a professionalised and stable management.

Together with this regulatory reform, the period was marked by the severe economic crisis and the considerable decrease in public contributions made by the Ministry of Culture, the Community of Madrid and the Madrid City Council.

Consolidation of a reference model

Faced with this situation, the Teatro Real promoted an institutional, artistic and management model, which has placed it today as a national and international reference, articulated around three axes: to consolidate the Teatro Real as a national opera of reference, committed to artistic excellence and technological innovation, with a wide and plural programme and with great international projection; to establish its own autonomous management model, the efficiency of resources, and the strengthening of the Marca Teatro Real; and, as a decisive element, to promote the participation of civil society in its project.

During these last years, the Teatro Real has become the national opera of reference in Spain, the first institution of the performing and musical arts, and has recovered the international prestige it had historically, being recognised in 2021 as BEST INTERNATIONAL OPERA THEATRE by the prestigious International Opera Awards.

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