The Royal Opera House – Pjazza Teatru Rjal

Project Description

The Royal Opera House, or It-Teatru Rjal as known to many Maltese, was designed by the English architect Edward Middleton Barry and was erected between 1862 and 1866. Barry’s design did not take into account that the land sloped and a sub-level facade was added by Maltese architects.  An architectural work of art, with columns all around and wonderful ornamentation, the Royal Opera House soon became one of the most iconic buildings in Valletta.

In 1873 its interior was extensively damaged by an accidental fire but was restored and functioning again by 1877. Many famous international artists have sung and performed on the stage of the Royal Opera House, amongst whom were  Antonio Scotti, Carmen Melia, Marian Stabile, Licia Albanese, Gianna Pederzini, and Aureliano Pertile.  The theatre received a direct hit from aerial bombing during an air raid on the evening of Tuesday, 7 April 1942.  Although not in total ruins, what remained of the theatre was demolished and left as a void area surrounded by a few courses of the original perimeter and the front shops and stairways.

In the late 1950s, the space within was levelled and converted into a car park.  Although in 1953 six renowned architects submitted designs for the new theatre from which the Committee selected Dr Ing. Zavellani Rossi by whom the collonaded square was also designed which was shelved in 1957 and totally forgotten by 1961. Work on the 2800 m2 open-air Pjazza Teatru Rjal as part of the Renzo Piano Project was commenced along with the other projects but at a slower rate and completed in August 2013, transforming the ruins into a venue of appropriate stature, whilst simultaneously preserving the remains of the elegant neoclassical original. The theatre seats approximately 900 people.