The iconic dome where fine entertainment can be had all year round, but where the classical energy of the Last Night of the Proms rules the roost.
The Royal Albert Hall has been London's premier venue for first-class entertainment since 1871, hosting everything from classical converts, to ballet, to rock music, to tennis – even the circus. It has been so central to Great Britain's performing heritage that it has been called the 'Nation's Village Hall'. And approaching the Albert Hall, its elegant, grand and intricately carved exterior promises a glorious extravaganza inside. It is a giant elliptical amphitheatre, over 83 metres across, and some 40 metres high. The outside is decorated with a spectacular, continuous mosaic frieze, representing the 'triumph of art and sciences'.
That was the original vision, when the Albert Hall was commissioned in 1867. Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert had died earlier that decade, and it was his idea for the capital to have a hall dedicated to bringing the best in the sciences and the arts to the British public. It was built here in South Kensington from terracotta brickwork, with its stupendously elegant dome supported by delicate iron work. All agreed it was a marvel of the age.
But sadly, the acoustic properties of the building were not so well thought through. After the first concert, it became apparent that it suffered from echoes, 'the only place where a composer could be sure of hearing his work twice'. That problem was finally sorted in the 1960s when giant ceiling-hung discs (or the 'mushrooms') were installed to act as echo absorbers.
The most famous events held in the Royal Albert Hall are the BBC Promenade concerts, held over 8 weeks in the summer, and serving up the best in classical music. These culminate in the final evening known as 'the Last Night of the Proms'. Here, new musical talent and old classics are played out, to a packed hall, one that literally 'raises the roof' with its enthusiasm and energy. This is one of the those Albert Hall events where the best seats to be had are those in the standing section.