Grand Opera House

Coordinates: 54°35′42″N 5°56′06″W / 54.595°N 5.935°W / 54.595; -5.935

The Grand Opera House is a theatre in Belfast, Northern Ireland, designed by the most prolific theatre architect of the period, Frank Matcham. It opened on 23 December 1895.

According to the Theatres Trust the "magnificent auditorium is probably the best surviving example in the United Kingdom of the oriental style applied to theatre architecture".


It was renamed the Palace of Varieties in 1904, although it reverted to its original name in 1909. Variety programmes dominated in the 1920s and 1930s and the theatre saw performances by Gracie Fields, Will Fyffe and Harry Lauder. It became a repertory theatre during World War II and at the celebrations to mark the end of the war, Eisenhower, Montgomery and Alanbrooke attended gala performances at the theatre. The Grand Opera House was acquired by the Rank Organisation, which led to its use as a cinema between 1949 and 1972, after which it was almost demolished, only to open again in 1980.

Despite the onset of The Troubles, the theatre was listed in the 1970s and has been restored extensively since. The building had been damaged by bombs on several occasions usually when the nearby Europa Hotel had been targeted. It was very badly damaged by bomb blasts in 1991 and 1993. The theatre continued to thrive, however, hosting musicals, plays, pantomimes and live music.

Renovation and reopening

In 1995 the running of the theatre was taken over by the Grand Opera House Trust. An extensive renovation was undertaken in 2006 with the notable addition of The Baby Grand performance space together with extended foyers, extended stage wings and artist accommodation and access for customers with disabilities. The theatre now also has a restaurant on the third floor called "The Hippodrome", on the ground floor a daytime bistro called "Luciano's" as well as space for corporate meetings and functions. The extension's striking, modern appearance caused a certain amount of controversy and mixed reviews as some felt that it was not in keeping with the original theatre however it improved facilities have been warmly received. The building is intended to host smaller musical, dramatic and comedy performances as well as a host of educational events. The theatre reopened with a Gala event on the 21 October 2006. The capacity is 1,063.

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