A Royal Opera House Revival


Mumbai is a city of myriad hues and one of its prized possessions the iconic century old Royal Opera House has once again been restored to its pristine grandeur. With the building back to its old self, it is poised to be a major cultural centre in times to come in Maximum City.

The Royal Opera House has been restored to its colonial era glory and is open to the public two decades after closing in disrepair.

A place which hosted the crème e la crème of the city on many occasions had gradually lost its sheen over poor upkeep.

It was forced to close in the 1990s after years of financial struggles.

A seven year long restoration project has transformed the building from a building dying a natural death to a ornate replica with some updates.

The biggest challenges being bringing in modern acoustics, sound, lighting and air conditioning, all the requirements of a 21st century theatre.

The Royal Opera House back in the day had been built in a Baroque style with Italian balustrades, marble statues, crystal chandeliers and a gold ceiling. Inaugurated by Britain’s King George V in 1911 it was completed in 1916.

In the initial days of the Opera House only operas were performed on stage for its first two decades.

When films started it was altered to double-up as a cinema.

It showcased productions from talent such as actor Prithviraj Kapoor and Marathi star Bal Gandharva. Bought over by the Maharaja of Gondal, a royal family from nearby Gujarat, in the 1950s it could not maintain its appeal.

It closed in 1993, and had remained shut for years. It was also put on the World Monuments Fund list of endangered buildings.

In 2009 the Royal family of Gondal commissioned Abha Narain Lambah to lead the mammoth restoration project.

The cosy 574-seater venue held its first event in 23 years in October, hosting the opening ceremony of the Mumbai film festival with Bollywood star Bachchan in attendance.

It took six years for her team of civil contractors, conservators, stagecraft and acoustic specialists to restore the marvel.

Now the interiors are in a rich red-and-gold palette befitting a grand opera house. The wooden panelling and detailed plasterwork has been repainted. The historic ceiling has been restored to its original baroque style and the royal boxes have been refitted.


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