I had already been on the Royal Opera House‘s Velvet, Gilt & Glamour tour, but I really wanted to go on a Backstage Tour as well in order to see behind the scenes. We assembled in the foyer beforehand and our guide introduced herself: she was lovely, very friendly and knowledgeable.
We began our tour in the area surrounding the stalls, where we learned about the history of the building, Queen Victoria’s love of opera, and got to see the scale models of ballet sets now built into the walls. We were taken into the auditorium, and got to experience the grandeur of the space. It’s very rare for me to get a chance to sit in the stalls – I’m normally in the cheap seats near the top!
We were taken down past the orchestra pit, into the backstage areas of the theatre and upstairs in the lift. We got to see ballet dancers warming up in their morning Class, and ROH staff kept hurrying past carrying costumes. Other costumes and props, piled into baskets, awaited the lorries that would come and take them into storage.
The most exciting part of the tour was being able to look at the back of the stage, where backdrops, sets and props for several operas and ballets (including The Nutcracker and Eugene Onegin) awaited scene changes. We saw a short video showing how the crew transform the ROH in one afternoon from one set to another – it is incredibly impressive.
Our tour ended at the top of the building, where costumes are designed, made and dyed. There were many glorious fabrics drying out, and we were able to see some of the books of concept designs. The vastness of the backstage area is thanks to the refurbishment work of the 1990s, which allowed the staff to be brought in-house and ensured that there was more backstage space available for set changes.
I really enjoyed my backstage tour: I leaned a lot and it was a great insight into how the Royal Opera House works. I definitely recommend both tours if you want to learn more.