The first plans for the Teatro Real date from 1817, when King Fernando VII commissioned the remodeling of the Plaza de Oriente. The theatre was finally inaugurated with La favorite, by Donizetti, on November 19, 1850, after 32 years of building work. Over the following 75 years, the Real functioned as an opera theatre, becoming the centre of social and artistic life in Madrid and hosting the best voices of Europe.
In October 1925, a collapse caused the theatre to be temporarily closed. Finally, in 1966, after years of political unrest and difficulty, the Teatro Real was reopened as a symphony hall and the headquarters of Orquesta Nacional de España, but it was not until 1984 that it was decided to make it an opera house again. The rehabilitation work started in January 1991, first under the management of architect José Manuel González Valcárcel and, after his death, with Francisco Rodríguez Partearroyo, who concluded the rehabilitation in 1997.
The Teatro Real reopened its doors on October 11, 1997, with a double bill: the ballet El sombrero de tres picos and the opera La vida breve, both works by Manuel de Falla. After its renovation, the Real became one of the most complete and technically advanced theatres in the world, determined to recover its traditions, and to produce and embrace the most ambitious lyrical creations of our time. Since its reopening, the Teatro Real has held nine world premieres:, including Don Quijote by Cristóbal Halffter (2000); Faust-Bal by Leonardo Balada (2009); and The Perfect American by Philip Glass (2013).
With the engagement of Gerard Mortier as new artistic director in 2010, the Spanish government wanted to put the Teatro Real on the highest artistic level. Mortier completely rebuilt the chorus, and engaged first class conductors, such as Semyon Bychkov, Sylvain Cambreling, Thomas Hengelbrock, Teodor Currentzis, Hartmut Haenchen, and James Conlon. He has also invited first-rank stage directors such as Robert Wilson, Christoph Marthaler, Dmitri Tcherniakov, Peter Sellars, Krzysztof Warlikowki, Lluís Pasqual, and Fura dels Baus, as well as great visual artists including Anselm Kiefer, Jaume Plensa, Emilia and Ilya Kabakov, and Marina Abramovic.