Monday, November 1, 2010

Teatru Manoel

Halloween is not celebrated in Malta in a trick-or-treat and pumpkin carving fashion. So we honoured the holiday by seeing a murder mystery play at the Teatru Manoel in Valletta. "Death of a Doornail" is comedy and mystery play, that combined scripted dialogue and improv interaction with the audience. Before the murderer was revealed to the audience we were allowed to ask questions of the characters in the play to try to guess "whodunnit". It was a lot of fun. We had been missing our student passes to Neptune Theatre in Halifax a lot so we were pleasantly surprised with the fantastic production quality and actors in this play.

In 1731, António Manoel de Vilhena, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, commissioned and personally funded the construction of this theatre. The Portuguese Grand Master built the theatre to keep the young knights of the Order of St. John out of mischief but also to provide the general public with "honest entertainment." This motto was inscribed above the main entrance to the theatre, which still reads today: "ad honestam populi oblectationem". Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries the theatre hosted mainly (Italian) operas and some theatrical performances.

The theatre is reputed to be the oldest functioning theatre in Europe and the oldest theatre in the Commonwealth. It was recently restored in 2004.

During British rule a separate Opera House was constructed at the Main Gate of Valletta (1866) and became the primary venue for operas and theatrical productions in Malta, while Teatru Manoel served as a second smaller venue still functioning during this time.

During the Second World War Teatru Manoel escaped serious damage. It served as a shelter for the homeless, victims of the same carpet bombings that sealed the fate of the Opera House, totally destroyed in 1944. The Opera House is currently being rebuilt at the City Gate by well-known architect Renzo Piano with a completion date of 2013.

Teatru Manoel was purchased by the Maltese government in the late 1950's and is now Malta's national theatre. The Teatru presents mainly operas, symphonies and musical recitals, but also occasionally offers theatrical productions (usually in 2 or 3 night engagements) and Pantos (musical-comedies) at Christmas. We are already planning to return to the Teatru this Friday for a symphonic production and are delighted to have found a good Mediterranean replacement for Halifax's Neptune.

please excuse the poor image quailty of our iphone photos

22 karat gilded ceiling

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