Belfast's Grand Opera House closes as renovation begins

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Scaffold and building material inside the Grand Opera House auditoriumImage source, Press Eye
Image caption,
The £12.2m lottery-funded project will take 10 months to complete

Work has begun to restore the historic Grand Opera House in Belfast in time for the theatre's 125th anniversary in December.

The £12.2m lottery-funded project will take 10 months to complete.

It has been 40 years since the last renovation work was carried out on the unique auditorium.

The decorative Victorian paint and plasterwork will be repaired and accessibility will be improved.

The theatre's ageing technical infrastructure will be updated with state-of-the art sound and lighting systems and the seating, carpets, curtains and drapes will be replaced.

Image source, Press Eye
Image caption,
Seating, carpets, curtains and drapes will be replaced

John Tracey, director at Tracey Brothers Ltd who are completing the renovation work, said it was a privilege to work on such a prestigious heritage project.

'Rich and spectacular'

"It's rare to have the opportunity to restore a venue with a history and an auditorium as rich and spectacular as the Grand Opera House."

The building was designed by the leading Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham, also responsible for designing the London Palladium and Hackney Empire.

The curtain rose on the first performance in 1895.

Image source, Grand Opera House
Image caption,
A Grand Opera House audience in 1916

It has since played host to some of the world's biggest names in entertainment, including Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Sarah Bernhardt and Laurence Olivier.

In 1963, a little-known Italian singer named Luciano Pavarotti made his UK debut on the stage of the Grand Opera House in a performance of Madame Butterfly.

Image source, Chris Heaney
Image caption,
The Grand Opera House's decorative elephants will be restored to their Victorian glory

The refurbishment will include a permanent exhibition detailing the theatre's history and the many performers who have entertained Belfast audiences since 1895.

A new bar will be installed in the repaired and restored glass extension overhanging Great Victoria Street.

Image source, Press Eye
Image caption,
Renovation begins at Belfast's historic Grand Opera House

The Grand Opera House's curtain will rise again in December, with Goldilocks the pantomime.

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