(Covent Garden, London). The original Covent Garden theatre was opened by John Rich in 1732; Handel used it for operas and oratorios, including the first London performance of Messiah. In 1808 the theatre was destroyed by fire, reopening the following year and from 1847 housing the Royal Italian Opera. It burned down again in 1856; the present building designed by E. M. Barry opened in 1858. The dominant conductor during the first part of the 20th cent. was Beecham, while more recent musical directors include Solti and Davis. After the Second World War the theatre became home to the permanent Covent Garden Opera Company and Sadler's Wells Ballet (later known as the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet).
Subjects: British History.