The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden officially re-opened after a two year closure and £214m refurbishment with a gala opening evening which featured a multitude of stars both on stage and in the audience. The Queen, Queen Mother, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Margaret, Tony and Cherie Blair, Margaret Thatcher and Edward Heath were all in attendance to inaugurate the new building.
The Royal Opera and Royal Ballet have been itinerant since the closure of the house and it's been a fraught two years as the ROH has faced bankruptcy, a Parliamentary investigation, a complete change of management, mass redundancies and the cancellation of an entire season in an effort to save money.
The ROH was ordered by the Government to modernize and lose its elitist image by slashing its prices after its reopening. In accordance with that, half of the seats in the new season cost £40 or less while the most expensive seats are £150, two-thirds less than under the old regime. Restricted view seats are available each night for just £6 while prices at ballet matinees start at £2. The box office for the ROH opened in September and, for the first time in its history, remained open all night for 48 straight hours to cope with the demand for the 87,000 tickets on offer.
The gala opening last night featured Placido Domingo and soprano Deborah Polaski singing the love duet from the first act of Wagner's Die Walkure, followed by a Royal Ballet extravaganza with prima ballerinas Darcey Bussell and Sylvie Guillem dancing excerpts from some of the most famous pieces choreographed for the company during its 50 years at Covent Garden. A second opening celebration will take place on Saturday for members of the public.