Restoring the Grand Opera House
In January 2020 the Grand Opera House embarked on its most ambitious restoration and development project in 40 years, aiming to return the beautiful 1895 auditorium to its original splendour, tell the Theatre’s fascinating history and improve customer facilities. Thanks to the support of lottery players and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this £12.2 million 10-month project will secure the future of the Grand Opera House for generations to come.
The Grand Opera House will reopen in late 2020 ahead of its 125th anniversary on 23 December. Audience members coming to see the first production in the restored Theatre – this year’s pantomime Goldilocks and the Three Bears – will notice many changes and improvements. As they gaze around the historic 1895 auditorium, they will be struck by the beauty of the plasterwork, decorative features, elephant heads, ornate boxes and ceiling paintings that will have been repaired, repainted, and restored to their original splendour. They will be sitting in brand-new, purpose-designed seats, replacing the cinema-style seats that have been in place since the 1960s. Carpets and auditorium drapes will also have been replaced, and a new, much-needed air handling system will keep the temperature comfortable for everyone.
As the stage comes alive, shows will benefit from state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and although hidden from view, the ‘fly tower’, where scenery and sets are hung, will have been refurbished and upgraded.
At the interval audiences will have the option of buying a drink at the glamorous new crush bar in the repaired and restored 1980 glass extension on the Great Victoria Street façade, or taking a seat at the beautifully refurbished stalls and circle bars. As they walk around the building they will see a plethora of artefacts, pictures and information panels detailing the fascinating history of the Grand Opera House, and will be able to explore the Theatre’s first ever permanent exhibition, sharing the fascinating stories of the people who entertained audiences over the past 125 years.
Audience facilities throughout the Theatre will have been upgraded too, with more toilets, better access into the auditorium, and an increased number of wheelchair spaces. Northern Ireland’s Premier Theatre will reopen its doors in late 2020 as an iconic heritage building that is proud of its 125 years of history, and which is ready to begin writing the story of the next 125 years.
Between now and October 2020 we will be bringing you all the news about the restoration and development project, along with pictures, videos and interviews with the experts overseeing the work. We will also be giving you details about the exciting events around Northern Ireland that we are planning during 2020 when the theatre is closed, and, of course, news on the most ambitious performance programme ever during a year-long celebration of one of Northern Ireland’s most historic buildings following its grand reopening.
Here’s to an exciting 10 months!