In pictures: take a peak at results of £12.2 million Grand Opera House restoration

The results of a £12.2 million restoration of the Grand Opera House have been revealed and it’s fair to say the venue has had much more than just a lick of paint.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 4:27 pm
The helical staircase in the foyer of the Grand Opera House is designed to create drama before visitors even set foot in the auditorium
The helical staircase in the foyer of the Grand Opera House is designed to create drama before visitors even set foot in the auditorium

The focal point upon entry is a new helical staircase which sets the tone for a new era for the venue which first opened its doors in 1895.

Chief executive Ian Wilson said: “Frank Matcham, who designed this building in 1895, always believed in creating the wow factor. When you sat down inside the auditorium he believed the drama should start before the curtain rose. What we’ve done today is created the drama even when you walk into the building.

“I thought the interior design of the (2006) extension was quite harsh and cold, we wanted to reverse that. The designers have done an amazing job. It’s all softened now, there’s lots of natural light.”

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At the unveiling of the results of the restoration project are (l-r): Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of Grand Opera House, Colin Loughran, Chairman of Grand Opera House Trust, Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Hertiage Fund

The theatre now boasts four bars in order to entice visitors to stay a little longer.

One of the new bars has been installed in the restored 1980 glass extension overhanging Great Victoria Street, which for many years been hidden behind the huge posters advertising performances inside the venue.

Ian said: “Each bar is different, that’s deliberate. Ticket sales are very important to us, secondary spend is also very important.

“Our preference is that customers feel comfortable and they want to dwell in the bars pre-show, interval and afterwards. I now think that those spaces are really, really comfortable.

The Upper Circle Bar

“I think given the investment we’ve made people will want to dwell. We want this to be a full evening’s entertainment.”

The famous auditorium also got significant attention as part of the project. The paintings and decorative plasterwork have been painstakingly conserved as well as the introduction of new seating, carpets, curtains and drapes.

As part of the £12.2m project, the theatre’s technical infrastructure has been upgraded and a permanent heritage exhibition installed telling the story of the theatre.

The project was delivered by Tracey Brothers Ltd, and more than 60 sub-contractors.

The Studio Bar

Director John Tracey said during work on the auditorium they made some of interesting discoveries: “On a beam at the top of the stage, when we had our scaffolding up to redo all the painting, we discovered the names of the previous craftsmen who had all signed it when they were up there.”

The project was supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Department for Communities, Arts Council NI, Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and The Wolfson Foundation.

Tours are set to begin from July 5 while the first show on sale is the musical ‘Six’ which is due to open on October 4.

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The Grand Circle Bar

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The Auditorium
The Stalls Bar
The Studio
The Heritage exhibition
The Helical staircase from above
The Grand Opera House first welcomed visitors in 1895