Angelica Fenech

The History of Opera in Malta - Part 6

In last week’s blog we took a look at the activities around the Royal Opera House till it came to a sudden end on the 7th of April 1942 when it was hit by bombs from an air raid. Today we shall go back to the Teatru Manoel and see what was going on there while the Royal Opera House was still standing.

After the Royal Theatre was destroyed by a fire on the 25th of May 1873, the Manoel theatre was back into business. On the 25th of October, the season opened up with Giacomo Meyerbeer's Dinorah. There was also Zorilla, a comic opera by Antonio Nani, La Figlia del Generale, L'Elisir D'Amore (Donizetti), Cenerentola (Rossini) , Ruy Blas (Filippo Marchetti) , Beatrice di Tenda (Bellini) and Marta (Friedrick von Flotow).

The last season (starting in October 1877) before the reopening of the Royal Opera House, opened with Amilcare Ponchielli's La Gioconda. With the reopening of the Royal Opera House, the Manoel Theatre ‘s importance started to decline ,however what saved it was the new musical theatre genre ' Operetta', which was pioneered by the French and the Austrians.

The following works took place during the 1880-81 season : La Forza del Destino (Verdi), Un Ballo in Maschera (Verdi), Le Educande di Sorrento (Emilio Usiglio), La Figlia di Madame Angot (Charles Lecocq), La Campana dell' Eremitaggio ( Enrico Sarria) , Napoli di Carnovale ( Nicola De Giosa) , and Bizet's Carmen.

Later on works of the famous Jacques Offenbach were included , such as Barba Blu, La Bella Elena (click here to watch a modern performance of this opera), Il Brigante and La Granduchessa di Gerolstein.

In 1886 the season opened with a performance of Boccaccio by Franz von Suppe' , another leading composer of operetta. Another two operas by Suppe’ followed : Donna Juanita and La Bella Galatea'. There were also two operetta's by Charles Lecocq, Gerofle - Gerofla and Le Petit Duc.

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the twenthieth century, the Manoel Theatre started doing less operettas and more British drama started to be performed. During the 1908 Autumn season , the management decided to vary a bit , from English comedies and Indipendenza farces and operetta's to a season filled with Italian Opera, thus reminiscing the theatre's great days.

In 1910, the MADC (,which was previously known as MADS ), an amateur but highly enthusiastic group staged Gilbert & Sullivan's light opera Trial by Jury. This entity is very much active till the present day.

The Manoel Theatre started to have different roles during this time. On December 27,1922, January 6th,1923 and February 3, 1923 , the Manoel Theatre was the place in which Malta's National Anthem was aired for the public , for the very first time. During the Second World War, the Manoel Theatre served as an emergency accomodation for the war's victims. In the early twenthiet century , it was also used as a venue for Carnival balls and for about 20 years it operated as a movie theatre.

In next week’s blog we shall take a look at the activities in the Teatru Manoel after the destruction of the Royal Opera House during World War 2.