The Royal Opera House is a picturesque ruins site of a once outstanding theatre building and an acting venue for nowadays performances at the same time. It is one of the popular tourist attractions in Valletta due to its architectural and cultural value.
The original building was constructed in 1866 upon the project of a renowned British architect Edward Middleton Barry. The opera house could accommodate nearly 1,300 people and gained iconic status due to its beautiful design and luxurious interior decoration. The opening of the theatre promoted real boost to cultural and artistic life of Valletta and the whole of Malta. But 6 years after its grand opening, this gem of the Maltese capital suffered from a great fire that almost destroyed the glamorous interior of the opera house.
It was reconstructed in 1877 and retained the original exterior for the most part, but the new building was not identical to the Barry’s distinguished work anymore. Still, the theatre was a beautiful piece of architecture and a centre of Maltese cultural life, housing many great performances.
Unfortunately, in 1942 the magnificent opera house was almost completely destroyed by Luftwaffe bombing. Local authorities had to disassemble remains of the national theatre in order to protect passers-by from possible injuries that might be caused by the half-ruined structures and building fragments. Only the terrace and some columns were left as reminders of the once beautiful architectural and cultural Valetta landmark.
After the end of World War II, the Maltese authorities planned to reconstruct the building, but first they had to collect a large sum of money and to choose the best project for the quality of reconstruction. Finally, in the mid-50s the reconstruction was announced, but further political events got in the way of the plans. During the following decades the reconstruction issue was regularly discussed, but none of stated intentions was realized.
Nowadays, the question is still a matter of controversy, since many citizens and tourists tend to consider the opera house ruins as a famous historical landmark. It gives an idea of the beauty and splendor of the original building and adds to the dramatic history of the city. Besides, currently the Royal Opera House site is used as an open-air stage of Pjazza Teatru Rjal, a theatre which presents concerts, shows, carnivals, ballet and other exciting performances attracting lots of theatre enthusiasts.