Openings ~ 21

The Grand Opera House, Belfast, first opened its doors on 23 December 1895. The first season included burlesque acts, musical comedies, farces and melodramas. Good job the Free Presbyterians were not invented back then or the house would have been pulled down in disgust! 😉 There was also a market for classical opera and drama with regular performances of Shakespeare.

Not many people know that an unknown Italian singer named Luciano Pavarotti made his UK debut on the stage of the Grand Opera House in the role of Lieutenant Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly.

Designed by the prolific theatrical architect Frank Matcham, the theatre was a huge success from the outset.

Standing almost next door to the Europa Hotel – once known as the most bombed hotel in Europe – the Grand Opera House suffered damage by bombs on several occasions usually when the nearby hotel had been the target.

The theatre was listed in the 1970s and has been restored extensively since.  The crush bar on the front of the building at first floor level, was part of the restoration work and it overlooks Great Victoria Street.

Ornate ceiling

When the opera house was being restored, Cherith McKinstry, a contemporary painter and wife of Robert McKinstry, the restoration architect, was selected to re-create the ceiling’s original scene in a sympathetic manner.

An image of the interior can be found here.
The theatre continues to thrive, hosting musicals, plays, pantomimes and live music.

It has been awhile since I attended a Performance in the Grand Opera House. I see Madame Butterfly returns in March…. maybe I’ll treat myself!

10 thoughts on “Openings ~ 21

  1. Nancy

    Beautiful place,GM. The interior reminded me of the gorgeous Vienna Opera House which we visited in 1992.

    We were part of a tour group and when we were all arranged on the stage as a choral group we were told to sing Happy Birthday.

    We did as directed and then the tour guide told us that we could now honestly tell people that we had sung in the Vienna Opera House.

  2. Nick

    It’s a pity the Grand Opera House puts on so many safe and unimaginative productions. I would love to see a really challenging play or two there but I think I’ll have a long wait. It’s certainly a beautiful building.

  3. Brighid

    Beautiful opera house! I hope you do make it to see Madame B. in such a great place.
    It’s been sooo long since I’ve been to the opera in San Francisco…

  4. Grannymar Post author

    Nancy – I must remember that trick next time I set foot on a stage. Mind you with my voice the roof might fall in!!

    Nick – Perhaps the restrictions of the old style stage does not allow for the freedom we expect from modern directors and productions.

    Brighid – If it is to happen it will happen.

  5. Grannymar Post author

    James – Welcome to my blog. For classical concerts I often attended the BBC Invitation series at the Ulster Hall, and for Grand occasions at the Waterfront Hall.

  6. Grannymar Post author

    BWT – Modern productions work better on an open stage without a proscenium arch, the latter gives a limited view of the stage. I suppose it is similar to the idea of fixed Camera TV work of the past, compared to the multiple camera use these days


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