The Tales of Hoffman /Les cortes d’Hoffman (2006), Midsummer Night’s Dream (2006), Julius Caesar/Giulio Cesare (2002),  and The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland/Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (2009) are some of the operas from which the beautiful pieces that have been lovingly crafted by dedicated artists and artisans of the Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain, will be auctioned.


by Karen Blythe

The huge success of last year’s auction has encouraged El Real to do a 2014 encore of it just days before Christmas. Wouldn’t that make your tannenbaum come alive with exclusive pieces that had been donned by consecrated opera actor-singers of global fame, and props that had transformed the stage into a world of mesmerizing drama?

“With this project,” says Jose Ignacio García Belenger, Director General of the Teatro Real, “we will be offering treasures of the theatre. They’ve been made by our very own technicians and staff who understand that they will have a life [after outliving their use on stage].”

“We saw that those that have artistic value, and have been made with loving care, can have a second life,” confirms Alvaro Aguado of the Departamento de Utilía, roughly Department of Utilization. “They are pieces that form part of the history of the Royal Theatre [one of the world’s major opera houses] and the buyer will actually own a piece of the history of Madrid.”

The Real people think that that being the case, the pieces are priced really low. The opening bid for some of the lots, for example the set of three skulls in Faust-bal (2009), is a cheap €15 and the starting price of the most expensive lot does not even reach €4,000. The  buggy drawn by the head of a horse (see top photo) and a set of animated musicians, both from The Tales of Hoffman, have an opening-price tag of €3,800 each.

Benjamin Fernandez of the Real’s tailoring department is glad to be able to offer costumes of “incredible beauty” to the bidders but at the same time he’s sad because after all the hard work and dedication that had been invested in them, the time has come to let them go.

As Belenger has pointed out, more than raising funds for the Teatro Real, the auction is motivated by the desire to bring the theatre closer to the people – i.e.,  to share tangible Real pieces with the public. But he also admits that the theatre must decongest its storerooms.

These are the same reasons why opera houses all over the world conduct auctions periodically. And isn’t it lucky for the people that this occurs?

Have yourself a merry little Christmas; bid for that headband of flowers from L’italiana in Algeri (2009), the Egyptian suit from Giulio Cesare, the Polish princess’ crown from Boris Godunov (2012). Or go straight for the silver tree from Il tutore burlato (2007) for an “operatic” Christmas tree.

Those masks, at €50 each for opening bid, would lend a special meaning to your Lenten carnival next year and many others to come!

The lots are exhibited in different parts of the theatre. Free public viewing on the following dates:  22-23 and 29-30 November, and 6 December, 3-8 PM; 12 and 19 December, 10 AM – 5 PM.

Those with tickets for any shows between 4 and 19 December can go to the teatre one hour earlier so they can view the exhibits.

The auction starts at 11:00 AM on 20 December at the Teatro Real, Plaza Isabel II s/n. But check out the online auction which has started last 19 November:

 There are more than 400 lots for the auction in addition to the preceding.