Mumbai’s colonial past and architecture is gradually fading, giving way to state-of-the-art design projects that dominate the city’s skyline. But there are a few spots where tourists can still experience Mumbai’s old-world charm and vintage ambiance, including the Royal Opera House in South Mumbai.
Royal Opera House History
The Opera House was established in 1908. It was the brainchild of a passionate Anglo-American actor and theatre manager, Maurice Bandmann, and a Parsi coal businessman, Jehangir Framji Karaka.
Bandmann was born in New York but studied the art, craft of dramatics and management of theatre in England. He travelled the world with his troupe and become famous mostly in the East, but especially India. He performed in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Bombay (now Mumbai). The Opera House was re-christened as ‘The Royal Opera House’ after King George V inaugurated it in 1911. Performances started at the Opera House in 1916. Initially, Opera music was featured, but theater and cinema followed.
Post Indian independence, in 1952, His Highness Maharaja Vikramsingh’ji of the Royal family of Gondal (Gujrat, India) acquired the theatre and in 1993, due to deteriorating infrastructure, the theatre shut down.
In 2010, the current descendant of The Maharaja of Gondal, His Highness Jyotendrasinhji commissioned the restoration of The Royal Opera House, and finally, 100 years since it hosted its first performance, the Royal Opera House opened its doors again 2016, and continues to charm residents and tourists alike.
How to Experience the Royal Opera House
When in Mumbai, an easy way to access and admire the artistic charm of the Royal Opera House is by first exploring apps like ‘Book my Show’.
I recently attended a spectacular musical extravaganza at the Royal Opera House. The show was presented by a group of Mumbai-based youngsters from Vishaal Asrani’s Institute of Performing Arts, who gave a ‘Live’ performance of songs from the Swedish band ABBA. As claimed, the show was an ultimate tribute to the timeless and legendary Swedish band. For me, it was surreal to hear and sing along to songs from the 1970s and ’80s in an auditorium that had a décor and ambiance of the early 19th century. The juxtaposition created a magical retro experience in a city no surrounded by modern skyscrapers and times.
The Baroque-style architecture of the Royal Opera House reflects the old-world charm as one admires the magnificent regal chandeliers, proscenium stage and the royal boxes that gracefully decorate the auditorium. Once known to be the finest theatre of the East, today it is India’s only surviving Opera House which has a 575 seating capacity, comprising of three levels: Royal Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Balcony.
There are no elevators in the two-storey building, but the staircase is worth a walk to admire the lamps, mirrors and artistic designs that punctuate the climb.
A tour of the Royal Opera House is worth including in the itinerary for tourists visiting Mumbai and is also a treat for art, architecture and design lovers who want to get a peek into the lifestyle of the elite who regularly flocked to the Royal Opera House during the 19th century in Mumbai.
Royal Opera House Fun Facts
- The Royal Opera House, Mumbai was conferred with ‘UNESCO’ Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2017.
- The stage curtain of the Royal Opera House carries the royal badge of the Kingdom of Gondal, Gujrat, India.
- The Royal Stall seats are the most expensive seats and the Grand Balcony are the least expensive.
BeSeeingYou In: Mumbai
Good to know: The Royal Opera House hosts book launches, concerts, theatre performances, and myriad other live events.
Wow! Factor: The pair of crystal chandeliers in the Opera House’s foyer are called the ‘Sans Souci’ and were donated by the Sassoon family, known as the Rothschilds of the East, due to the immense wealth they accumulated in finance and opium trade.
Tip: For a better view of the stage, Royal Stall seats are the best.
Author bio: Shraddha D. Sankulkar