© Saúl Tuñón Loureda
El Royal Albert Hall es una sala de conciertos en Londres. Inaugurado el 29 de marzo de 1871, es uno de los teatros más emblemáticos del mundo y una de las construcciones más distintivas del Reino Unido. Está ubicado en Albertopolis, en el extremo norte del área de South Kensington, en la ciudad de Westminster.
El Royal Albert Hall fue construido para cumplir la visión del príncipe Alberto, consorte de la reina Victoria, de un “Salón Central” que fuera utilizado para promover las artes y las ciencias en South Kensington, rodeado de museos y centros de aprendizaje.1
Iba a llamarse The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, pero se lo renombró Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences por decisión de Victoria, en memoria de su esposo.
En 1851, con motivo de la Gran Exposición en Hyde Park (Londres), se construyó el The Crystal Palace. La exposición tuvo un gran éxito y esto hizo que el príncipe Alberto propusiera la construcción de una serie de instalaciones permanentes para la cultura y educación de la gente.
La propuesta fue aprobada y el sitio fue comprado con una parte de los beneficios recaudados en la exposición. En abril de 1867 la reina Victoria firmó la «Royal Charter of the Corporation of the Hall of Arts and Sciences» para poder iniciar la construcción y operación del teatro y el 20 de mayo se colocó la primera piedra. Sin embargo, el progreso del proyecto fue muy lento y, en 1861, Alberto murió sin poder ver realizadas sus ideas. No obstante, se propuso la construcción de un monumento en su memoria, el Albert Memorial, orientado hacia el Royal Albert Hall.
La ceremonia oficial de inauguración fue el 29 de marzo de 1871. El discurso de bienvenida estuvo a cargo de Eduardo, Príncipe de Gales. Aunque Victoria no dio un discurso, sí comentó que el edificio le recordaba a la Constitución Británica.
El Royal Albert Hall, monumento clasificado de Grado 1, fue diseñado por los ingenieros civiles Francis Fowke y Henry Young Darracott Scott, de la Royal Engineers, y construido por los hermanos contratistas Thomas y Charles Lucas.3 Los diseñadores estuvieron fuertemente influenciados por la forma de los antiguos anfiteatros, así como también por las ideas de Gottfried Semper, mientras él trabajaba en el South Kensington Museum.
Para su construcción se emplearon ladrillos rojos de Fareham, con bloques de decoración hechos de terracota, fabricados por Gibbs and Canning Limited. Tiene un tamaño de 83 metros (eje mayor) por 72 metros (eje menor) y una forma elíptica. El domo, diseñado por el ingeniero Rowland Mason Ordish, está hecho de cristal y acero forjado, se encuentra a 41 metros de altura en el techo. Originalmente, el teatro fue diseñado para poder albergar 8000 personas, capacidad que ha sido aumentada hasta 9000, aunque las medidas de seguridad actuales han restringido la capacidad máxima permitida, lo que permite un cupo de 5544, incluyendo gente de pie en la Galería.
Desde su inauguración, han pasado por su escenario artistas reconocidos internacionalmente, de música clásica hasta bandas de rock. Ha sido sede de galas benéficas, entregas de premios, banquetes, conferencias, eventos públicos y torneos de tenis. Se llevaron a cabo las graduaciones del Imperial College, acogió el Festival de Eurovisión 1968, el primero transmitido en color, y albergó a celebridades como Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty, Lady Gaga, Cream, Tony Bennett, Glen Hansard, Laura Pausini, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Slash, B.B. King, David Bisbal, Yanni, bond, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, George Harrison, David Gilmour, Deep Purple, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, Camel, Sting, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Umberto Tozzi, Jack Bruce, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Sarah Brightman, Julio Iglesias, Mick Jagger, Muse, Frank Sinatra, Phil Collins, Pete Townshend, The Corrs, Robbie Williams, The Last Shadow Puppets, Arctic Monkeys, Enrique Iglesias, Noel Gallagher, Depeche Mode, Snow Patrol, The Stranglers, The Killers, Jake Bugg, Porcupine Tree, Coldplay y, recientemente Steven Wilson, Opeth, Emeli Sandé, Adele, Florence and the Machine, Mystery Jets, Foals, Bring Me The Horizon , McFly y Juan Luis Guerra.
El Royal Albert Hall es la sede de The BBC Proms, el mayor festival mundial de música clásica que se realiza anualmente durante el verano, con una duración de ocho semanas y con un maratón de solistas, coros y orquestas transmitido a todo el mundo por la BBC.6 Por los Proms han pasado importantes figuras de la música clásica como Adrian Boult, Malcom Sargent, Colin Davis, Georg Solti, Evgeny Kissin, Joshua Bell, John Williams (guitarrista), Luciano Pavarotti, Jessye Norman, Plácido Domingo, Sarah Brightman, Renée Fleming, Bryn Terfel y Simon Rattle, entre otros.
La tradicional última noche de los Proms es uno de los hitos del verano londinense. Es un show que reúne multitudes dentro del hall y en Hyde Park y otros parques en otros lugares del Reino Unido. El último concierto del festival (a menudo la Novena Sinfonía de Beethoven) finaliza con bises de clásicos la cultura victoriana como Pompa y circunstancia de Sir Edward Elgar, Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britannia, Jerusalem y God Save the Queen.
El Cirque du Soleil ha realizado numerosas presentaciones en este teatro desde 1996, con el espectáculo Saltimbanco, que se presentó hasta 1997. En 1998 y 1999, presentaron Alegría. En 2003 se presentan nuevamente con Saltimbanco. En 2004 y 2005 montaron el espectáculo Dralion. En 2006 y 2007 se dio el regreso de Alegría, mientras que en el 2008, realizaron la premiere de Varekai, espectáculo con el que regresaron en 2010, con motivo de la celebración de los 25 años de la compañía. En 2011 y 2012 se presentaron con Totem. En 2013 estarán presentando Kooza.
Desde 1998, el English National Ballet se ha presentado en numerosas temporadas en sociedad con el teatro y Raymond Gubbay con, entre otros, La bella durmiente (2000), Romeo y Julieta (2001 y 2005), El lago de los cisnes (2002, 2004, 2007 y 2010) y Strictly Gershwin (2008 y 2011).
The Festival of Remembrance de la Royal British Legion se celebra anualmente, un día antes del Rembrance Sunday, fecha en la que se recuerda a todos aquellos que han perdido la vida en conflictos bélicos.7
Teenage Cancer Trust
Desde el año 2000, el Teenage Cancer Trust ha celebrado anualmente conciertos de caridad. Iniciaron como un evento sencillo, pero a través de los años se han ido expandiendo hasta presentar una semana o más de presentaciones.
Roger Daltrey, vocalista de The Who, ha estado profundamente envuelto en la realización de los conciertos para este evento.8
Ceremonias de graduación
El teatro es usado anualmente por el Royal College of Art y el Imperial College London para sus ceremonias de graduación.
La Kingston University celebró también sus ceremonias de graduación hasta 2008, año en que cambió de sede al nuevo Rose Theatre, Kingston.
The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall on the northern edge of South Kensington, London, which holds the Proms concerts annually each summer since 1941. It has a capacity of up to 5,272 seats. The Hall is a registered charity held in trust for the nation and receives no public or government funding.
Since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, the world’s leading artists from many performance genres have appeared on its stage and it has become one of the UK’s most treasured and distinctive buildings. The location of some of the most notable events in British culture, each year it hosts more than 390 shows in the main auditorium, including classical, rock and pop concerts, ballet, opera, film screenings with live orchestra, sports, award ceremonies, school and community events, charity performances and banquets. A further 400 events are held each year in the non-auditorium spaces.
The Hall was originally supposed to have been called the Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the name was changed to the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences by Queen Victoria upon laying the Hall’s foundation stone in 1867, in memory of her husband consort, Prince Albert who had died six years earlier. It forms the practical part of a memorial to the Prince Consort – the decorative part is the Albert Memorial directly to the north in Kensington Gardens, now separated from the Hall by Kensington Gore.
he Hall, a Grade I listed building, is an ellipse in plan, with major and minor axes of 83 m (272 ft) and 72 m (236 ft). The great glass and wrought-iron dome roofing the Hall is 41 m (135 ft) high. It was originally designed with a capacity for 8,000 people and has accommodated as many as 9,000 (although modern safety restrictions mean that the maximum permitted capacity is now 5,544 including standing in the Gallery).
Around the outside of the building is a great mosaic frieze, depicting “The Triumph of Arts and Sciences”, in reference to the Hall’s dedication. Proceeding anti-clockwise from the north side the sixteen subjects of the frieze are: (1) Various Countries of the World bringing in their Offerings to the Exhibition of 1851; (2) Music; (3) Sculpture; (4) Painting; (5) Princes, Art Patrons and Artists; (6) Workers in Stone; (7) Workers in Wood and Brick; (8) Architecture; (9) The Infancy of the Arts and Sciences; (10) Agriculture; (11) Horticulture and Land Surveying; (12) Astronomy and Navigation; (13) A Group of Philosophers, Sages and Students; (14) Engineering; (15) The Mechanical Powers; and (16) Pottery and Glassmaking.
Above the frieze is an inscription in 12-inch-high (300 mm) terracotta letters that combines historical fact and Biblical quotations: “This hall was erected for the advancement of the arts and sciences and works of industry of all nations in fulfilment of the intention of Albert Prince Consort. The site was purchased with the proceeds of the Great Exhibition of the year MDCCCLI. The first stone of the Hall was laid by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the twentieth day of May MDCCCLXVII and it was opened by Her Majesty the Twenty Ninth of March in the year MDCCCLXXI. Thine O Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty. For all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine. The wise and their works are in the hand of God. Glory be to God on high and on earth peace.”
Below the Arena floor there are two 4000 gallon water tanks, which are used for shows that flood the arena like Madam Butterfly.
The Hall has been affectionately titled “The Nation’s Village Hall”. The first concert was Arthur Sullivan’s cantata On Shore and Sea, performed on 1 May 1871.
Many events are promoted by the Hall, whilst since the early 1970s promoter Raymond Gubbay has brought a range of events to the Hall including opera, ballet and classical music. Some events include classical and rock concerts, conferences, banquets, ballroom dancing, poetry recitals, educational talks, motor shows, ballet, opera, film screenings and circus shows. It has hosted many sporting events, including boxing, squash, table tennis, basketball, wrestling including the first Sumo wrestling tournament to be held in London as well as UFC 38 (the first UFC event to be held in the UK), tennis and even a marathon.
On 6 April 1968, the Hall was the host venue for the Eurovision Song Contest which was broadcast in colour for the first time. One notable event was a Pink Floyd concert held 26 June 1969, the night they were banned from ever playing at the Hall again after shooting cannons, nailing things to the stage, and having a man in a gorilla suit roam the audience. At one point Rick Wright went to the pipe organ and began to play “The End Of The Beginning”, the final part of “Saucerful Of Secrets”, joined by the brass section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (led by the conductor, Norman Smith) and the ladies of the Ealing Central Amateur Choir. A portion of the pipe organ recording is included on Pink Floyd’s album The Endless River.
On 30 June 2 and 3 July 2011, Janet Jackson brought her Number Ones, Up Close and Personal Tour here, These were her first headlining UK shows in 13 years.
Kylie Minogue performed a show here on 11 December 2015, to promote Kylie Christmas, her first Christmas album and thirteenth studio album. She will return with two more shows on 9 & 10 December 2016.
Benefit concerts in include the 1997 Music for Montserrat concert, arranged and produced by George Martin, an event which featured artists such as Phil Collins, Mark Knopfler, Sting, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney, and 2012 Sunflower Jam charity concert with Queen guitarist Brian May performing alongside bassist John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, drummer Ian Paice of Deep Purple, and vocalists Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper.
On 2 October 2011, the Hall staged the 25th anniversary performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, which was broadcast live to cinemas across the world and filmed for DVD. Lloyd Webber, the original London cast including Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford, and four previous actors of the titular character, among others, were in attendance – Brightman and the previous Phantoms (aside from Crawford) performed an encore.
On 24 September 2012, Classic FM celebrated the 20th anniversary of their launch with a concert at the Hall. The programme featured live performances of works by Handel, Puccini, Rachmaninoff, Parry, Vaughan Williams, Tchaikovsky and Karl Jenkins who conducted his piece The Benedictus from The Armed Man in person.
On 19 November 2012, the Hall hosted the 100th anniversary performance of the Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Queen and Prince Philip, with boyband One Direction among the performers.
Between 1996 and 2008, the Hall hosted the annual National Television Awards all of which were hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald.
Royal Choral Society
The Royal Choral Society is the longest running regular performance at the Hall, having given its first performance as the Royal Albert Hall Choral Society on 8 May 1872. From 1878 it established the annual Good Friday performance of Handel’s Messiah.
The BBC Promenade Concerts, known as “The Proms”, is a popular annual eight-week summer season of daily classical music concerts and other events at the Hall. In 1942, following the destruction of the Queen’s Hall in an air raid, the Hall was chosen as the new venue for the proms. In 1944 with increased danger to the Hall, part of the proms were held in the Bedford Corn Exchange. Following the end of World War II the proms continued in the Hall and have done so annually every summer since. The event was founded in 1895, and now each season consists of over 70 concerts, in addition to a series of events at other venues across the United Kingdom on the last night. In 2009, the total number of concerts reached 100 for the first time. Jiří Bělohlávek described The Proms as “the world’s largest and most democratic musical festival” of all such events in the world of classical music festivals.
Proms (short for promenade concerts) is a term which arose from the original practice of the audience promenading, or strolling, in some areas during the concert. Proms concert-goers, particularly those who stand, are sometimes described as “Promenaders”, but are most commonly referred to as “Prommers”.
Tennis was first played at the Hall in March 1970 and the ATP Champions Tour Masters has been played annually every December since 1997.
Classical Spectacular, a Raymond Gubbay production, has been coming to the Hall since 1988. It combines classical music, lights and special effects.
Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil has performed several of its shows at the Hall beginning in 1996 with Saltimbanco, a show which returned in 1997. In 1998 they had their UK première of Alegría and returned in 1999. After a few years away they returned in 2003 with Saltimbanco. Their European première of Dralion was held at the Hall in 2004 and returned in 2005. 2006 and 2007 saw the return of Alegría whilst 2008 saw the UK première of Varekai, which returned in 2010 marking 25 years of Cirque du Soleil. Quidam returned to London (but a first for this show at the Hall) in 2009 and again in January 2014. In January and February 2011 and again in 2012 they presented Totem. From January–February 2013 and again from January–February 2015, the hall held performances of Koozå.
Classic Brit Awards
Since 2000, the Classic Brit Awards has been hosted annually in May at the Hall. It is organised by the British Phonographic Industry.
Festival of Remembrance
The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance is held annually the day before Remembrance Sunday.
Institute of Directors
For 60 years the Institute of Directors’ Annual Convention has been synonymous with the Hall, although in 2011 and 2012 it was held at indigO2.
English National Ballet
Since 1998 the English National Ballet has had several specially staged arena summer seasons in partnership with the Hall and Raymond Gubbay. These include Strictly Gershwin, June 2008 and 2011, Swan Lake, June 2002, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013, Romeo & Juliet (Deane), June 2001 and 2005 and The Sleeping Beauty, April – June 2000.
Teenage Cancer Trust
Starting in the year 2000 the Teenage Cancer Trust has held annual charity concerts (with the exception of 2001). They started as a one off event but have expanded over the years to a week or more of evenings events. Roger Daltrey of the Who has been intimately involved with the planning of the events.
The Hall is used annually by the neighbouring Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art for graduation ceremonies. Kingston University also held its graduation ceremonies at the Hall until 2008.
Films, premières and live orchestra screenings
The venue has screened several films since the early silent days. It was the only London venue to show William Fox’s The Queen of Sheba in the 1920s.
The Hall has hosted many premières, including the UK première of Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen, 101 Dalmatians on 4 December 1996, the European première of Spandau Ballet’s Soul Boys of the Western World and three James Bond royal world premières; Die Another Day on 18 November 2002 (attended by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip), Skyfall on 23 October 2012 (attended by Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall) and SPECTRE on 26 October 2015 (attended by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge).
The Hall held its first 3D world première of Titanic 3D, on 27 March 2012, with James Cameron and Kate Winslet in attendance.
The Hall has curated regular seasons of film-and-live-orchestra screenings since 2009, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gladiator, Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Interstellar, The Matrix, West Side Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Back to the Future and the world première of Titanic Live in Concert.
Beyond the main stage
The Hall hosts hundreds of events and activities beyond its main auditorium. There are regular free art exhibitions in the ground floor amphi corridor, which can be viewed when attending events or on dedicated viewing dates. You can take a guided tour of the Hall on most days. The most common is the one-hour Grand Tour which includes most front-of-house areas, the auditorium, the gallery and the Royal Retiring Room. Other tours include Story of the Proms, Behind the Scenes, Inside Out and School tours. Children’s events include Storytelling and Music Sessions for 0 – 4 year olds which take place in the Door 9 Porch and Albert’s Band sessions in the Elgar Room during school holidays. “Live Music in Verdi” takes place in the Italian restaurant on a Friday night featuring different artists each week. “Late Night Jazz” events in the Elgar Room, generally on a Thursday night, feature cabaret style seating and a relaxed atmosphere with drinks available. “Classical Coffee Mornings” are held on Sundays in the Elgar Room with musicians from the Royal College of Music accompanied with drinks and pastries. Sunday brunch events take place in Verdi Italian restaurant and features different genres of music.
Eric Clapton is a regular performer at the Hall, it having played host to his concerts almost annually for over 20 years. In December 1964, Clapton made his first appearance at the Hall with the Yardbirds. It was also the venue for his band Cream’s farewell concerts in 1968 and reunion shows in 2005. He also instigated the Concert for George, which was held at the Hall on 29 November 2002 to pay tribute to Clapton’s lifelong friend, former Beatle George Harrison. Since 1964, Clapton has performed at the Hall almost 200 times, and has stated that performing at the venue is like “playing in my front room”.
David Gilmour played at the Hall in support of two solo albums, while also releasing a live concert on September 2006 entitled Remember That Night which was recorded during his three nights playing at the Hall for his 2006 On an Island tour. Notable guests were Robert Wyatt and David Bowie (who sang lead for “Arnold Layne” and “Comfortably Numb”). The live concert was televised by BBC One on 9 September 2007 and again on 25 May. Gilmour is set to return to the Hall; having previously played five nights in September 2015, to end his 34-day Rattle That Lock Tour on September 2016 by playing another four nights at the Hall. He will also make an appearance on 24 April 2016 as part of the Teenage Cancer Trust event.
Shirley Bassey has appeared many times at the Hall, usually as a special guest. In 2001, she sang “Happy Birthday” for the Duke of Edinburgh’s 80th birthday concert. In 2007, she sang at Fashion Rocks in aid of the Prince’s Trust. On 30 March 2011, she sang at a gala celebrating the 80th birthday of Mikhail Gorbachev. In May 2011, she performed at the Classic Brit Awards, singing “Goldfinger” in tribute to the recently deceased composer John Barry. On 20 June 2011, she returned and sang “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Goldfinger”, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, as the climax to the memorial concert for Barry.
James Last appeared 90 times at the Hall between 1973 and 2015, making him the most frequent non–British performer to have played the venue.
Education & Outreach
The Hall’s Education & Outreach programme engages 100,000 people a year. It includes workshops for local teenagers led by musicians such as Foals, Jake Bugg, Emeli Sandé, Nicola Benedetti, Alison Balsom and First Aid Kit, innovative science and maths lessons in partnership with Samsung, visits to local residential homes from the venue’s in-house group, Albert’s Band, under the ‘Songbook’ banner, and the Friendship Matinee: an orchestral concert for community groups, with £5 admission.
The Hall is managed day to day by the chief executive Chris Cotton and five senior executives: the chief operating & financial officer, director of operations, director of business development, director of events and director of external affairs. They are accountable to the Council of the Corporation, which is the Trustee body of the charity. The Council is composed of the annually elected president, currently Mr Jon Moynihan OBE, 18 elected Members (either corporate or individual seat owners) and five Appointed Members, one each from Imperial College London, Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, British Museum of Natural History and the Royal College of Music.
Pop culture references
A large mural by Sir Peter Blake is displayed in the amphi corridor of Door 12 at the Hall. Unveiled in April 2014, it shows more than 400 famous figures who have appeared on the stage.
In 1955, English film director Alfred Hitchcock filmed the climax of The Man Who Knew Too Much at the Hall. The 15-minute sequence featured James Stewart, Doris Day and composer Bernard Herrmann, and was filmed partly in the Queen’s Box. Hitchcock was a long-time patron of the Hall and has already set the finale of his 1927 film, The Ring at the venue, as well as his initial version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, starring Leslie Banks, Edna Best and Peter Lorre.
Other notable films shot at the Hall include Major Barbara, Love Story, The Seventh Veil, The Ipcress File, A Touch of Class, Shine and Spice World.
In the song “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles, the Albert Hall is mentioned. The verse goes as follows:
I read the news today, oh boy
four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
and though the holes were rather small
they had to count them all
now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
I’d love to turn you on.
The song “Session Man” by the Kinks references the Hall:
He never will forget at all
The day he played at Albert Hall.
In the song “Shame” by Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow, Gary mentions the Hall in his verse:
I read your mind and tried to call, my tears could fill the Albert Hall.
In some variants of “Hitler Has Only Got One Ball”, Hitler’s second testicle is mentioned to be in the Hall.
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