Manoel Theatre

Old Theatre Street,
Triq it-Teatru l-Antik,
Valletta

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Yeomen of the Guard 1963

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The Manoel Theatre in the World Heritage City of Valletta on the Island of Malta was constructed during 1731 and opened its doors on 9th January 1732. It was enlarged over the years, notably in 1812 when an additional balcony was inserted.

The Manoel, which has also been known as the Teatro Pubblico, the Teatro Reale (Royal), until the present name was adopted in 1873, was an instant success and became the principal entertainment venue in Valletta until E.M. Barry’s Royal Opera House was opened in 1866. The Manoel then fell upon hard times, except for a brief period 1873-77 when the Royal Opera House was destroyed by a fire and was rebuilt.

During the lean times the theatre was used as a doss house for the homeless of Valletta during the latter part of the 19th century. In the early 20th century it was spruced up and became a silent cinema. For around twenty years the images flickered across the silver screen, but the advent of talkies and the construction of the large super cinemas in the city seem to have forced closure on the Manoel around 1930.

During the war it was used as emergency accommodation for victims of the bombing that took place on Malta, and which on the night of 7th April 1942 destroyed the Royal Opera House. After the war was over the Manoel was compulsorily acquired by the Maltese Government and underwent a slow restoration, reopening in December 1960 with a performance by Ballet Rambert.

The theatre has an intimate stalls area on a tiled floor and then four tiers of Rococo boxes in an elongated horseshoe arrangement. The first tier centre box is the Royal Box. The oval ceiling is segmented and painted to resemble a dome, though it is nearly flat. There is a large stage and scenery workshop area with direct street access. The auditorium boasts superb acoustics and is much in demand for concerts.

It continues an on-going schedule of restoration and is an absolute jewel of a theatre, now seating around 650 patrons. There is an adjacent museum and on the other side the theatre has expanded into the corner property to provide a charming bar and coffee house, plus an enlarged box office. Tours of the building are regular features of the Manoel � one of the oldest Theatres in Europe.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

Ian
Ian on October 7, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Thanks Lost Memory – the website that Google kept throwing up for me is defunct! I have just noticed that many of the photos on the website are mine – note the arrangement of the chairs on the stage (photos used with permission, but not acknowledged!).

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