HRH The Prince of Wales Officially Reopens the Grand Opera House
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales today officially reopened Belfast’s Grand Opera House following the Theatre’s recent £12.2 million restoration and development project.
The Prince of Wales was welcomed to the 125-year-old venue by the Chair of the Grand Opera House Trust, Colin Loughran, and the Theatre’s Chief Executive, Ian Wilson.
During the visit, The Prince of Wales also spoke with several people who worked on the biggest restoration project the Theatre has undergone since the building was saved from demolition in the mid-1970s. This included representatives from the design team – Consarc, the main contractor – Tracey Brothers, and interior designers – Sundara Design.
Inside the 1895 auditorium, which has now been restored to its original and opulent splendour, The Prince of Wales was greeted on stage by May McFettridge who this year celebrates a record-breaking 32 years as Dame of the Grand Opera House pantomime. His Royal Highness also met broadcaster and comedian, Tim McGarry as well as Ruth Bothwell, lead conservator who oversaw the restoration of the renowned auditorium. The audience was then entertained with a short performance by members of the Theatre’s summer youth production.
Before The Prince of Wales left the Theatre, His Royal Highness unveiled a plaque to commemorate his visit and mark the Theatre’s official reopening.
Welcoming the Royal visit, Chair of the Grand Opera House Trust, Colin Loughran said; “We are immensely proud and honoured to have HRH The Prince of Wales join us today to officially reopen the Grand Opera House following its hugely successful restoration and development project. The Theatre enjoys a special place in the city’s history and we are confident that the restoration will ensure it remains centre stage as a very important venue and as a valuable visitor and tourist attraction for many years to come. We know The Prince of Wales has a keen interest in the preservation of historic buildings so for him to see the fantastic results of our recent restoration up close, and to meet the expert team who delivered it, was very fitting.”
Speaking after the official reopening Ian Wilson, Chief Executive, Grand Opera House said; “We are delighted that HRH The Prince of Wales was able take time today to officially reopen the Theatre and to meet with some of our summer youth production members, staff and colleagues from across the arts community. It was particularly special for him to be welcomed on to our famous stage by our very own pantomime royalty – May McFettridge who is now synonymous with the Grand Opera House. Today was a special day for us all and adds another important chapter in our long and fascinating history.”
When the Theatre opened at the end of the 19thcentury, it was famed for comfort, style, state-of-the-art lighting, and the most advanced standards of stage presentation. Striving to match the achievements of prolific Victorian theatre architect, Frank Matcham, today’s restoration project has delivered new seating, air conditioning and modifications to eliminate access barriers. It also includes investment in sophisticated lighting, flying, and sound systems to enable the Theatre to present technically complex shows to West End standards. A new permanent heritage exhibition has also been installed telling the fascinating story of the Theatre’s 125-year history.
The restoration project was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Department for Communities, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Grand Opera House Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, Foyle Foundation, and Wolfson Foundation.