Royal Albert Hall / Photos by Greg Helgeson

Who has played at Royal Albert Hall?
“The best way to answer that is to say who hasn’t played at Royal Albert,” said Daryl Bennett, tours and retail manager for the historic hall. “Elvis Presley and Freddy Mercury.”
Perhaps cheeky hyperbole, but the vast monument to Queen Victoria’s husband breathes history. The Minnesota Orchestra on Friday morning rehearsed on the same stage where the Beatles and the Rolling Stones performed on the same bill in September, 1963. And on Friday night, the orchestra played music of Shostakovitch and Bruckner to a sold-out audience. Coming up this fall after the BBC Proms festival, Van Morrison will do a concert.

Eric Clapton, Cold Play, Sting have been recent visitors. It was a favorite venue for Frank Sinatra. Ballet, opera, theater, political rallies, banquets have all been here. Muhammad Ali boxed, Pavarotti sang, sumo wrestlers scrummed and even tennis players have batted it around after the floor is converted for masters tournaments.

One of the most-famous halls in the world, Royal Albert is at once elegant and utilitarian.
“It’s not an elitist building,” Bennett said. “It’s a building for the people.”
Built along the lines of an arena rather than a concert hall, it has about 5,000 fixed seats and standing space for another 1,000. It’s doubtful the royal family will be in their box for tonight’s performance by the Minnesota Orchestra, but every other spot will be full.