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The Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London is home to opera, ballet and other theatre and musical performances. While your tickets can get you into a world-class production, they can't get you backstage to meet the people who make it all happen. Here Wynne Evans takes a look 'behind the curtain'.
Opera has been presented on the site of Covent Garden's Royal Opera House since the mid-19th century. We sent the ever-intrepid Wynne Evans round to see what happens behind the sacred doors of the opera house. He promised not to touch anything, but we couldn't keep an eye on him the whole time...
Wynne is singing the role of Scaramuccio in 'Ariadne auf Naxos' by Richard Strauss at the opera house this season, and to document the experience he'll be doing a special 'Behind The Curtain' show for Classic FM.
Roberto Alagna has returned to the Royal Opera for the 2013/2014 season to play Cavaradossi in Puccini's 'Tosca'. Speaking about this special place, Alagna says, 'If you like to dream and realise your dream, come here to listen to opera at Covent Garden.' He also had time for an obligatory pic with Wynne. Lads.
Wynne meets Rob Barham, Head Armourer at the Royal Opera. Rob provides all the guns, swords, daggers, leather for holsters, and other military accessories. So not a niche role at all. Careful Wynne, he might think you're a trespasser.
Oh, it's fine, he's let him in without shooting him. Rob gives Wynne a tour of his workshop in the depths of the Royal Opera House, and the metal, leather and wooden theatrical delights that lurk within.
Caroline O’Connor, a Wig and Make up Technician at the Royal Opera House, tells Wynne that the Opera House is a 'complete rabbit warren. I still don't know where certain things are!'
The Royal Opera House auditorium seats 2,256 people. It consists of four tiers of boxes and balconies and the amphitheatre gallery. (Picture: © ROH/SIM CANETTY-CLARKE)
Each season, Cheryl Knight - Opera Footwear Supervisor in the shoe department - sources more than 2000 pairs of shoes for Royal Opera productions, from traditional Japanese sandals to 50s-style court shoes. And those are just for Wynne.
Wynne meets Emma Smith, the newest soprano in the Royal Opera Chorus. 'This is the best place to work ever,' says Emma. 'It's a dream come true. We all get on so well. We're like a family - we get to play dress-up, we're peasants, villagers, audience members, everything from nuns to monks to prostitutes.'
This is the spectacular view of how the auditorium of the Royal Opera House looks from the very apex of the ceiling.
Vasko Vassilev has been the Royal Opera Orchestra's concertmaster for 20 years. 'The opera house is such an amazing big place,' says Vasko. 'You have ballet, opera, symphony concerts, chamber music - it's a fantastic place to be.'
Fay Fullerton, Acting Head of Costume, tells Wynne there's no such thing as an 'average day' at the Royal Opera House. 'It's so changeable,' she says. 'I could be in rehearsal, in meetings, doing a budget, having a meeting with a designer, interviewing - it doesn't matter what's in my diary, it will change!'
Rachel Kelly is a Mezzo-soprano with the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme. Being part of the Royal Opera 'is the ultimate,' she tells Wynne. 'You always know about Covent Garden. It's our heritage.'
Neil Gillespie, a tenor with the Royal Opera Chorus, fondly remembers appearing in Tosca in 1992 with Luciano Pavarotti. 'Just to be on stage with someone like that for the first time and to hear that voice live, it makes such an impression on you.'
So that's it, Wynne's made it out without breaking anything expensive. Speaking of which, before the 1997 restoration, Covent Garden's Floral Hall had fallen into disrepair and was used as a scenery store. Today, however, it's a vibrant, extensive public gathering place. (Picture: © ROH/LIA VITTONE)