The History of Opera Performances in London

The opera scene has been bustling since the mid-17th century and is still going strong. The Garden Opera Company presents some notable events here that made a mark on the music industry in London.

The First Opera in London – 1656

The now-demolished Rutland House is marked by today’s Rutland Gate and is known as the location of the first opera performance in London. William Davenant conducted The Siege of Rhodes at Rutland-House, Aldersgate Street, in London.

The Dorset Garden Theatre – 1671

The Duke’s Opera Company opened the Dorset Garden Theatre, close to the River Thames. In addition to hosting plays, the company organised operas.

Italian Opera Makes an Entrance – 1711

The wealthy community in London developed a taste for Italian opera. This led to productions from Handel and one of the first performances of his world-renowned Rinaldo.

The Rise of Opera Seria in London – 1719

Serious Opera or Opera Seria inspired investors to establish two Royal Academies. The opera companies were directed by Handel himself. This followed students being taught to follow the principles of Italian opera.

English Gains Popularity – 1739

Handel abandoned Italian opera in 1741. He then focused more on oratorio. Handel went on to enjoy much success. English operas picked up immensely over the next 40 years. Successful works included pasticcio with music arranged by Arne, and Storace’s The Siege of Belgrade (1791).

Famed European Composers – 1830

London’s wealth skyrocketed during this era which meant the population as well as a lust for theatrical and musical performances grew. This attracted performers from all over Europe. Composers from all over the continent were making contributions to the international operatic repertory.

The Royal Opera House re-opens – 1946

Following its closure during the Second World War, the Royal Opera House was once again re-opened to invite fans of the opera and theatre to its world-class performances. It is currently the third building on the site following the disastrous fires in 1808 and 1856.

The Opera Factory – 1981

David Freeman’s Opera Factory made a move to London to dazzle audiences with contemporary works such as Tippett’s The Knot Garden.

The Royal Opera House – 1997

The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden undergoes major renovations. However, the classic auditorium is left intact, but more than half the complex is newly renovated.

Opera continues to be a huge attraction for audiences around the globe. London is still the central hub for opera enthusiasts in the UK.