Mumbai Local

Royal Opera House to reopen in Oct. with MAMI inaugural


A slice of Mumbai’s history will come to life on October 20, 2016, when the Royal Opera House hosts the opening ceremony of the MAMI Film Festival. A key attraction for Opera House lovers would be the restored boxes — the little balconies on the sides — for people to sit like theatre-goers did 105 years ago when the iconic theatre hosted its first performance. The Hindu was the first to report on December 30, 2015, the scheduled October reopening of the Opera House.

The film festival’s organisers said they had started working towards this venue soon after they spotted news reports on its reopening. “We reached out to Abha Narain Lambah [conservation architect helming the project], who connected us and enabled a meeting with the Maharaja of Gondal who owns the property,” said Anupama Chopra, festival director. She said the Excellence in Cinema awards are given out at the opening of the film festival and this time it will be “in the space of great history and legacy”.

Though it had started as an opera house and a performance theatre in 1911, the Royal Opera House had moved on to become Bombay’s sought-after cinema hall, hosting premieres of big-ticket releases in its prime. However, from the mid-80s, it started suffering losses and shut down in 1991. It has been undergoing restoration since 2010.

Ms. Lambah told The Hindu the first performance was held here on October 16, 1911, in line with the October deadline. “The Opera House belongs to the Maharaja of Gondal Jyotendra Sinhji Jadeja and he was committed to restoring it. He wanted it to be reopened as a performance theatre.”

Describing the restoration process, Ms. Lambah said it first required stabilising the building since it was in severe structural distress. It wasn’t just the interiors that were restored; work was also done on the theatre’s acoustics and lights. “People remember that the Opera House had side balconies. These boxes were torn down when it became a cinema hall. We have put the balconies back and it has gone back to being a Baroque theatre, the way it was originally.”

In a press statement issued by the film festival, the Gondal Maharaja said, “The Gondal family has always been a great patron of art, culture and education. Royal Opera House in this new avatar is our gift to the city of Mumbai.”

The Hindu had earlier reported that the restoration work has leaned heavily on archival images and text material as it has to be restored to its pre-1930 state.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 1:12:57 AM |

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