Regarded as one of the most important cultural institutions in Spain, the Teatro Real reopened on 11 October 1997 and has become an internationally acclaimed opera house which showcases leading voices and state-of-the art productions.
The Teatro Real is Spain's leading opera house. It is considered to be one of the three most important cultural institutions of the country together with the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
The origins of the current location of the Teatro Real go back to 1738, under the reign of King Philip V, when the Real Teatro de los Caños del Peral was inaugurated with the staging of the opera Demetrio, composed by Johann Adolph Hasse with a libretto by Pietro Metastasio. A noted event in the theatre’s history, this Teatro hosted in 1814 the gathering of the Cortes Constituyentes (Parliament) of Cádiz, after their move to Madrid from San Fernando de Cádiz until their relocation to the Doña María de Aragón monastery, current seat of the Spanish Senate.
In 1817, King Fernando VII orders, through a Royal Decree, the remodelling of the Plaza de Oriente and the design and construction of an opera house on the same building spot that had been used by the Real Teatro de los Caños del Peral until the previous year. The first stone was laid in April 1818. The initial design and construction work of the Teatro Real were lead by architect Antonio López Aguado, with long stops and periods of neglect, caused by the lack of funding and the death of the architect (later replaced by Custodio Teodoro Moreno). The works were only completed in 1850, 33 years after their start.
On 19 November of that year, after an expenditure of 42 million reales, the theatre was opened with a performance of La favorita, by Donizetti. During the next seventy-five years, the Real became a major European theatre.
After the revolution of 1868 and the exile of Queen Isabel II, the theatre was renamed as the Teatro Nacional de la Ópera.
In October 1925, a collapse caused the temporary closure of the theatre, and the start of reconstruction works that would extend indefinitely without the Teatro Real being reopened. The Civil War meant that construction work could not be continued, and a powder magazine even exploded inside the building, further complicated building works in the post-war period.
In 1966, after forty years of closure, the Teatro Real reopened as a concert hall as the venue for the Spanish National Orchestra. This period lasted until the eighties, when the decision was made to turn the building into an opera. Restoration work began in 1991, first under the direction of architect José Manuel González Valcárcel and then continued after his death by Francisco Rodriguez Partearroyo, who finished the building in 1997. The Fundación del Teatro Lírico was established at the same time, to carry out artistic projects and manage the theatre. In addition, on 30 July, 1993, the Ministry of Culture declared the building to be of cultural interest, designating it as a monument.
Finally, the Teatro Real reopened as an opera house on 11 October 1997 with a performance of the ballet El sombrero de tres picos and the opera La vida breve, both by Manuel de Falla. One week later, the first début performance was shown: Divinas palabras, by Antón García Abril.
Since then, the Teatro Real has welcomed worldwide opera premiers: Don Quijote, 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) and Brokeback Mountain, by Charles Wuorinen (2014).
The Teatro Real Foundation is chaired by the King and Queen of Spain. It relies on two public administrations that took part in its creation: the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, and the Comunidad de Madrid (Regional Government of Madrid). The Foundation is governed by a Board of 29 trustees. The Board of Trustees elects the President of the Board and the Executive Commission as proposed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. The Foundation is a public entity and there is an important role played by civil society in its governance and sponsorship.