Grand Opera House
Great Victoria Street
Since opening its doors on 23 December 1895, the Grand Opera House has delivered an unrivalled programme of entertainment, playing host to some of the greatest names in theatre and music. Designed by the prolific theatrical architect Frank Matcham, the theatre was a huge success from the outset, hosting a vibrant programme of opera, drama, pantomime, or the latest London comedy or musical. By the 1920s and 1930s, variety events dominated the schedule, and during the Second World War, the venue became a repertory theatre, hosting special Christmas and New Year performances. When peace finally did arrive, the Grand Opera House was at the centre of the celebrations, hosting Gala Performances by the Savoy Players for General Eisenhower, and Field Marshalls Alanbrooke and Montgomery.
With the introduction of television in the 1950s, the theatre suffered significantly and although the venue continued to present live shows, its acquisition by the Rank Organisation led to a new use as a cinema. This proved ultimately unsuccessful and in 1972, at the height of the troubles, the shutters came down on the ‘Matcham Masterpiece.’
With demolition looking a certainty in 1974, the Grand Opera House became the first building in Belfast to be listed as being of historical and architectural importance, and when, in 1976, it was acquired by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, its future was finally assured. After a massive restoration project, the doors reopened in 1980, and the theatre became a catalyst for the regeneration of Belfast city centre. Since then, Northern Ireland’s premiere theatre has welcomed some of the world's top ballet and theatre companies.
Although badly damaged by IRA bomb attacks in 1991 and again in 1993, the Grand Opera House bounced back on both occasions, continuing to host an array of theatre royalty and the prestigious BAFTA Award Ceremony in March 1994.
Extended in 2006, the original façade has been joined by a striking addition to Belfast’s skyline, home to a smaller performance space, The Baby Grand, plus Luciano's Cafe Bar and the Hippodrome Restaurant. This development heralds the beginning of yet another journey in what has been a ‘dramatic’ life so far.
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