India's Only Surviving Opera House

Royal Opera House Mumbai

The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The Royal Opera House, Mumbai is widely touted as the city’s Cultural Crown Jewel and is India’s only surviving Opera House.

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The Royal Opera House Mumbai was included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch to raise awareness about its history and significance, and support preservation efforts.

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Click on the arrow to explore the view from Dress Circle.

Won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage ConservationThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The Royal Opera House, Mumbai received the Award of Merit in the 2017 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

Mumbai's Cultural Crown Jewel

Come and experience the magic and grandeur of the venue.

Dome 1916The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

In 1908, Maurice E Bandmann, a renowned entertainer from Calcutta and Jehangir Framji Karaka, head of a firm of coal brokers drew up designs for the Royal Opera House theatre, designed in the baroque style.

The design incorporated a blend of European and Indian detailing.

Original Design in 1916The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The foundation stone was laid in July 1910. Although the theatre was still incomplete, the first performance was given on October 16, 1911, as a preview to a December opening to coincide with the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay.

The Central Entrance to the Auditorium (Archival Image)The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The theatre was full completed only in 1916, at a total cost of Rs. 7.5 lakhs. By 1917, the Opera House, like many other theatres, became in part a cinema.

Archival photographs of the Royal Opera House are testimony to among the most luxurious interiors in the city back in the day.

The Left Portion of Green Foyer (Archival Image)The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

In the finest tradition of Opera Houses, no expense was spared in creating a rich interior with painted murals on the interiors of the dome, ornate plasterwork, Italian marble and Minton Tile flooring, marble statuary and exquisite crystal chandeliers from the Sassoon mansion - Sans Souci.

In 1925 it ceased to be a dramatic theatre when British Pathe rented it for screening their films.

View showing seating arranegment of Dress Cirle (Archival Image)The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

In 1935 Ideal Pictures Ltd. acquired the theatre and completely renovated it in the following year, including new flooring, tiles, doors, window frames and coloured cements.

By the 1980s, video films adversely impacted the popularity of cinema and a number of theatres were closed by the 1990s.

The Right Portion of Green Foyer (Archival Image)The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

After the cinema was shut in 1991, the building was largely left unused and only rarely used for shooting advertisements and films, which led to the addition of various paint layers on the wall in the entrance foyer.

Though historic record gave us clues to the original colour scheme, the years have resulted in a range of paint colours and hue being introduced into the building more as a result of personal predilections.

Charming Ceiling Decoration (Archival Images)The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

Historical research by Sharada Dwivedi informs us that, “The dressing rooms were fitted with hot and cold shower baths, afford excellent accommodation, as well as luxury, for artists and in designing the building, the owners have fixed powerful inhalers, which draw pure air from the garden into channels (in which are large blocks of ice), which extend under passages to all parts of the theatre.

In addition to this, however, they have erected in the roof of the building a number of extractors, which expel all impure air”.

This has been again achieved in the restoration process of the Opera house with modern intervention.

Front Facade in 2008The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The Maharaja of Gondal, Shri Vikramsinhji, bought the Opera House in 1952.

Restoration of Royal Opera House, MumbaiThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The Opera House was declared a Grade II A heritage building as per the Heritage Regulations for Greater Bombay 1995 and upgraded to Grade I heritage building in 2016.

It also falls within the urban heritage precinct of Opera House Precinct. The conservation scheme is adhered to the Mumbai’s Heritage Regulations.

After a series of ownership changes, Opera House eventually came under the custodianship of Shri Jyotendrasinhji Jadeja.

History of Royal Opera House, MumbaiThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

His Highness, Maharaja Shri Jyotendrasinhji of Gondal, the current owner of the Royal Opera House, Mumbai, commissioned conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah for its restoration in 2010.

The mammoth task was completed under the able leadership and close supervision of Her Highness, Maharanisaheba Kumud Kumari of Gondal and close family friend Ashish Doshi, who has been named Honorary Director since its opening in October 2016.

Inside FacadeThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

Archival photographs show the staircase tower surmounted by a tall Florentine dome. This dome no longer exists today and was probably dismantled, along with the third floor stone arches and pediments due to structural distress.

The Front FacadeThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The monumental front façade is surmounted by an elaborate carved pediment with a sculpted frieze in carved cartouches and bas relief depicting angels, cherubs, a likeness of Shakespeare and musician playing the violin, harp and cello.

The PedimentThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The pediment is adorned with bas reliefs of figures in the Hellenic tradition, holding musical instruments in the tradition of performing arts.

The PedimentThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

At the top of the pediment, is a sculpture depicting four cherubs.

Crafted out of a combination of buff trachyte Malald Stone ashlar masonry along with white Porbunder limestone, and Carara Marble facing for the pediment, the exterior stone masonry of the Opera House exhibited a range of defects and stone deterioration issues which have been restored to its original elegance.

Restoration of Royal Opera House, MumbaiThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The front façade with the pediment, six tall pilasters with Corinthian capitals coloured glass fanlights, decorative architraves and cornice bands, Italianate balusters, timber panelled and louvered doors, timber awning, intricately cast iron railings and ornate statuary make this a truly spectacular building and India’s only surviving Opera House.

Lower Foyer in 2008The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The interior restoration included historic chandeliers, sculptures, tromp le oils, paintings and restoration of old Minton tile floors, marble, cast iron and Burma teak.

Pre-Restoration 2008

Palace of LightsThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

Historic record describes the entrance lobby as the Palace of Light, prominently displaying a pair of exquisite crystal chandeliers that once adorned the Sassoon villa-mansion, “Sans Souci”.

Post-Restoration 2016

The wooden boxes, painted murals, decorative plasterwork, historic chandeliers, Minton tile floors and stained glass canopies and window have been painstakingly restored by expert restorers and craftsmen during the restoration process.

Click on the arrow to explore the lower lobby.

Entrance to the AuditoriumThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

Two marble statues flanked the entrance to the main auditorium when the theatre was built.

The historic fittings have been cleaned and resorted to their original grandeur.

There are series of delightful murals, motifs and paintings in the lobby, which are logically related to, and in concord with the spirit of Music and the Art of Terpsichore fresco that once existed above the central dome.

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Entrance Dome 2008The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

Painted portraits of famous poets, authors, and musicians adorn the three entrance domes at the lobby.

Pre-Restoration 2008

Portraits of Famous Poets, Authors, Musicians and ArtistsThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The paintings have been carefully restored to its original form.

Post-Restoration 2016

Upper Foyer 2008The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The elaborate interior of the theatre was embellished with rich detailing in cream and gold.

Upper Lobby : Pre-Restoration 2008

The interiors of the building are extremely adorned and ornately restored with the use of false ceilings in gypsum plaster with wooden framework

Post-Restoration 2016

Click on the arrow to explore the upper lobby.

The Red FoyerThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

This formed a similar acoustic scheme to the likeness of original design found from archival images.

Auditorium Seating in 2008The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The building was in a highly advanced state of deterioration and disrepair.

Twenty-six rows of boxes behind the royal stalls were put up for the best view of the stage.

Pre-Restoration 2008

View from StageThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The historic fittings have been cleaned and resorted to its original grandeur.

At the rear end of the seating on the ground floor are the royal boxes which were interestingly designed for families of two, four and six numbers.

Post-Restoration 2016

Auditorium Ceiling 2008The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The restoration process involved not only the restoration of original features such as the historic baroque plaster ceilings and re-instatement of the side balconies, but also interventions required to re-open the venue as a state-of-the-art performance theatre and opera house.

Pre-Restoration 2008

Side Facade Audotorium 2008The Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The side balconies seen in the picture were removed after the Opera House was converted into a motion picture screen theatre.

Pre-Restoration 2008

The baroque plaster ceiling and the side balconies have been painstakingly restored to bring back the old world charm.

Historically, the auditorium ceiling was designed on the principle of the horn of a gramophone, the ceilings are so devised that they from a long sounding-board high up over the stage.

Post-Restoration 2016

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The ceiling was constructed to enable even those in the Grand Balcony to hear every word uttered by the performers.

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View from Dress CircleThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

To enable its use as a performance theatre, the stage mechanics were upgraded, fire fighting systems introduced, state-of-the-art acoustics, sound systems, stagecraft, as well as service upgrade for electrical, stage lighting, HVAC and public health engineering were introduced while ensuring that the spatial integrity of the interiors was not compromised and the acoustics were carefully calibrated.

One of the main features of the Royal Opera House, Mumbai is the Orchestra Pit. It can comfortably fit about 15 to 20 musicians depending on the kind of instruments being played.

Click on the arrow to explore the Orchestra Pit

Since reopening in October 2016, the space has not only regained its title of “one of the finest theatres in the East”, but has exceeded itself to become an inclusive cultural hub for not just the performing arts, but also for art, design, literature and more.

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Inside the AuditoriumThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

We aim to be inclusive across disciplines and have nurtured, supported and promoted artists from the visual and performing arts.

Fine Interiors of the BuildingThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The building has been recognized and awarded with an Award of Merit in the 2017 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

View from StageThe Royal Opera House, Mumbai

The restored facilities feature a 575-seater 3-level auditorium with an orchestra pit and state-of-the-art technological upgradations, including acoustics, stagecraft, lighting and air conditioning, alongside retaining the old world charm of the proscenium stage, the royal boxes and the magnificent regal chandeliers.

Credits: Story

Curation: Asad Lalljee
Execution: Sagar Bhagat


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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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