Attractions
Discover our lost Maltese treasures: Valletta's iconic Royal Opera House
From glory days in the limelight of theatre to its ruins used as a dreary car park.

Melanie Drury

Only the building's foundations, a few photos and a surprising number of authentic opera tickets from sentimental patrons remain of Malta's once gorgeous Royal Opera House, which graced the entrance of the capital Valletta between 1866 and 1942. Raising questions as to why the remains of this magnificent building were left to perish before it's re-imagining into an outdoor performance venue, this video takes us on a nostalgic trip to the past, allowing us to experience the Royal Opera House, as it was in its heyday.

Through the video, Edgar Vella, who painstakingly researched and put together this collection, allows us to see the Royal Opera House in all its splendour. The architecture, the interior, the patrons, and the original tickets pinpointing the operas that were shown, all demonstrate the high class of the opera culture associated with it.

Origins

The Royal Opera House was built during the British Era on the site of the Auberge d'Angleterre in Strada Reale, Valletta between 1862 and 1866. 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.

Royal Opera House Valletta Malta, a year or so before the fire of 1873, photo by Francis Frith

Glory days

The Royal Opera House was inaugurated with Vincenzo Bellini's I Puritani. It went on to present great acts such as Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi, Manon by Massenet and La Contessa di Amalfi by Petrella. Famous international artists to grace the stage have included Antonio Scotti, Carmen Melia, Gianna Pederzini, Marian Stabile, Licia Albanese and Aurreliano Pertile.

Activity was vibrant at the Royal Opera House until a fire in 1873, after which the building was restored and the Opera House reopened in 1877. It would continue to offer a wonderful taste of operatic comedies and dramas to local audiences until 1942, when it received a direct hit from a bomb during a World War II air raid by Luftwaffe bombers, and crumbled.

Royal Opera House after destruction by German bombs, Valletta Malta

Shadows of the past

Despite several intentions, offers and plans to rebuild the theatre to its former glory over the years, none came to fruition and the Opera House went from glory days in the limelight of theatre to a shell of its former self, with its ruins being used as a dreary car park for years.

Eventually, the ruins were redesigned by famous Italian architect Renzo Piano, who gave it a new life as an open air performance venue. It reopened in 2013 under the name Pjazza Teatru Rjal, and the rest, as they say, is history!

12th December 2021


Melanie Drury
Written by
Melanie Drury
Melanie was born and raised in Malta and has spent a large chunk of her life travelling solo around the world. Back on the island with a new outlook, she realised just how much wealth her little island home possesses.

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