Having spent the evening exploring Madrid’s nightlife, downing unidentified birthday shots, throwing some random shapes on the dancefloor and staggering to bed around six in the morning, you could say I wasn’t particularly looking forward to wandering around a theatre.
From the outside, Teatro Real in Madrid is an imposing huge grey concrete building that really disguises the complexities, details and surprises that are hidden away inside. It stretches back from the metro all the way to the front of the Royal Palace and is situated between Plaza de Isabel II and Plaza de Oriente, just finding the right entrance proved a bit of a challenge.
Once inside we were guided around a labyrinth of rooms, lifts, floors, moving floors and corridors, nursing a headache and surviving on about three hours sleep, it was difficult to know quite which way we’d been led. Room after room was full of surprises, we even sneaked in to listen to an orchestra in full swing, viewed a beautiful reheasal space overlooking the rooftops of Madrid complete with grand panio and found ourselves walking upon one of the many revolving stages.
It’s not just a theatre, it’s a small town housed within four giant concrete walls.
I was expecting to be touring your standard theatre… A stage, a few rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, back stage, that sort of thing. We soon realised that Teatro Real is a little bit different, it’s huge and complex, it has it’s own wig making facility and its own workshop for making the sets that they use on stage. It’s not just a theatre, it’s a small town housed within four giant concrete walls.
The theatre was opened back in 1850 but has suffered from various fires, explosions and floods which have dictated how the build looks and how it operates today. What was fascinating about Teatro Royal was the huge revolving stage platforms that move around the building with different sets on, even during performances.
Moving Stage Plaforms
Huge metal screw type pilars are used to move the platforms up and down within the building with minimal noise, it’s an impressive feat of engineering and one that makes my mind boggle trying to understand where, when and how these platforms are moving.
“it felt like being in the Phantom of the Opera’s shoes!”
Looking Down From The Rafters
Our tour guide took us to the top floor of the theatre where there’s a large metal grid spanning the floor directly above were the performances are on stage. This allows them to drop things into the set with precision using metal wires and pulleys. Trying not to make too much noise whilst peering over the edge in a we could see the tiny actors rehearsing many floors below, it felt like being in the Phantom of the Opera’s shoes!
Stage Prop Workshop
Towards the lower levels of the Teatro Royal was a large workshop that creates pieces for the stage sets. Along with plenty of heavy duty machinery stood four golden statues and a disgarded wooden car, items in the workshop are made especially for certain productions. I’d never thought that a theatre would be creating most of its major set props on site until exploring the floors of the Teatro Royal.
Clothing, Wigs and Moustaches
As well as creating large detailed pieces for the stage set and having a clothing adjustment area the Teatro Royal also contains it’s own wig making facilty making full blown wigs from real human hair. Just below the wigs we noticed a varied selection of moustaches and beards but restisted the temptation to try them on!
After watching one wig maker in action we wandered into the washing room, complete with ironing boards, washing machines, dryiers and a row of freshed polished boots, presumebly for one of the operas.
Our Maze Like journey
Towards the end of the tour we finally were able piece together our maze like journey through the Teatro Royal as we admired an animated model of the building. The model shows the stage platforms in the building and how they move into position to change the set during the performance, it’s really impressive engineering.
Hanging on the wall was a photo of one of the performances in the theatre where the cast members are all stood on one of the moving stage platforms for the big finale as it moves towards the audience. It must really gives Teatro Royal a uniqueness to its performances.
From the rear of Teatro Royal there is also a stunning view of the Royal Palace.
Creeping Into the Stalls
Our tour came to an end creeping into the stalls to catch some of the end of reheasals for an opera. It was interesting to compare the view at eye level with the stage and the view steep view looking down on the stage from the back of the theatre.
Despite being increbily tired from a night out in Madrid celebrating my birthday, the tour of Teatro Royal was not only something very special but took us all by surprise. It’s certainly well worth visiting and perfect if you can get tickets to performance before or after your tour.
I was also very impressed that the theatre encourages younger people to attend by offering discounts to the under 30’s, it’s something that you don’t really see in London.
If you’re in Madrid make sure you put the Teatro Royal on your Itinarery.
Useful link: Teatro Royal Website
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