Hastings Battleaxe goes to Royal Opera House Covent Garden

Would you believe that in all her life, Battleaxe has never been to the Royal Opera House? Philosopher has been many times before, but not, he told me, for 50 years… So, on Friday night we went, and saw The Magic Flute. We did other things as well – went to the Royal Academy and to Tate Modern, but I’ll do the ROH Covent Garden experience first.  To sum up my impression of the place: multipilissimo food and drink opportunities with an incidental opera house hidden in the middle. This photo is of the newish Floral Hall extension – a huge bar and eatery.

We stayed at the Z Hotel in the Strand. I knew what I was getting when we booked – and it was cheap… but the room was small – very small. The bed was right against the wall, so I had to heave my carcass across Philosopher to get into it.  Fine for a single person, or for a quick overnight stay like ours, but not for the more leisurely – or less nimble – traveller. So, Battleaxe only sort of recommends.

Handily, just round the corner from the hotel, we could go into the ROH via a side entrance. We arrived in a vast cafe snack bar area, totally heaving with people. Feeling a bit confused and provincial, we had a glass of wine and tried to get our bearings. A nice woman shared our table and directed us round the rest of the building. We went through the old foyer and upstairs… the old crush bar is now a posh restaurant plus a bar… along through a massive eatery in the Floral Hall, up a long escalator to get to an upper deck with yet another eatery – outside to a massive balcony area with still more tables… yikes.

Eventually found our way back again and located our door to get into the auditorium. We were in the Stalls Circle – tickets a mere £77 each. We had a very good view of the stage albeit with a slight bit of neck crick because we had to look at an angle. The house was absolutely packed. Those folks in the stalls in front of us in the photo would mostly have paid £235…


What of the production? The Magic Flute is one of Battleaxe’s favourite operas. Have seen it several times, heard it plenty, and know it very well. It was a Covent Garden revivial production so they presumably knew their stuff. Anyway, I had enormously high expectations, which were pretty much, but not totally, met.  The staging was fine. Costumes – a bit weird.  Seemed to range from C18 French court dress to modern outfits – and the 3 children looked like they were out of the Hitler Youth.  Singing? My favourite was Sarastro (Brindley Sherratt), who had a splendid voice and stage presence.  Philosopher had to give me a sharp nudge to stop me humming during ‘Osiris and Isis’. The Queen of the Night was a bit of a disappointment (Kathryn Lewek – I read in the programme that QotN is her ‘signature role’… Oh really?)  She didn’t seem to have the strongest voice, squawked a bit on the topmost notes, and didn’t help herself by hiding behind a big sleigh full of acolytes during her big number. Papagano (Gyula Orendt) was excellent, both in acting and singing. Tamino – OK.  Pamina was OKish but a bit wet.  Papagana was confusingly dressed like a tart. All in all though, Battleaxe enjoyed it very much and is glad to have gone.

Oh – and Battleaxe had another sharp nudge – from an attendant – for taking a photo. I know it was wrong but hell, I thought, quite possibly we will never go again… here it is – a very rare picture of the big snake at the very start of the opera. No doubt I shouldn’t publish it either. Sorry ROH…

One thing: Went to the loo in the interval, and expected the normal theatre business of a queue of 50 women… Not so. I tell you, they had more loo cubicles than I have ever seen. Looked like they stretched to infinity….

So, what of the rest? On Friday afternoon we went to the Royal Academy to see the ‘Making Modernism’ exhibition, featuring the work of four women artists from the turn of C20. Interesting, but a bit slight. On the way back along Piccadilly I had a fancy for a posh cup of tea and a cake. Didn’t even attempt Fortnums, but went instead to L’Eto Cafe, which had a display of the most astonishing cakes in the window. We both had horrifically rich things that we feared would make us feel sick for the rest of the day. I had a pistachio ‘Dulce de Leche’ which is a sort of rich cream pudding thing. Delicious. Philosopher had the most enormous piece of red velvet cake.

The next morning (I slept very badly) we walked along the Embankment and across the Millenium Bridge to Tate Modern – Philosopher wanted to look at the permanent collection. Unfortunately they have reorganised the collection into themes, so we ended up walking all over the (enormous) building to look round everywhere to find things we liked. But got some nice photos. I was quite taken with the hanging knitted/crochet/woven festoons in the main hall. Apparently called ‘Brain Forest Quipu’ by Cecilia Vicuna.

Walked back to collect our cases and then to Charing Cross. Worn out. Took some good London skyline view photos though.

From Millenium Bridge
From Waterloo Bridge



  1. Valerie Poore
    January 31, 2023 / 5:52 pm

    Lovely post, Stephanie. I do miss London and the culture. I’m not a fan of opera, but I would have enjoyed the performance, I’m sure. Super photos, and as for that cake…wow.,

    • February 17, 2023 / 4:51 pm

      Thanks Val – the cake was really sickly…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.