Malta | EUNewsletter

Teatru Manoel in Malta

ManoelIn the Maltese capital of Valletta one of the narrow streets stretching to the west leads to the oldest theatre in Europe, known as Manoel Malta.

It was commissioned in 1731 and built in just ten months. The construction of the theatre was personally funded by Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, the Portuguese Grand Master of the Knights of Malta. He 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 (for the honest recreation of the people)”.

The theatre has 600 seats and three tiers of boxes adorned with engravings in Baroque style. As for the acoustic environment of the auditorium, people often say that “it is so perfect that the hushed page-turnings of an orchestra conductor can be heard clearly…”

The theatre building was seriously damaged during the Second World War. Thanks to a decade-long refurbishment process the theatre building was restored to its former glory. The great ceiling with its 22 carat gilding was also restored. The re-opening ceremony took place in 1960, with a performance by the prominent English Ballet Company “Rambert”. Since then, many world-famous celebrities have considered it an honour to perform inside the ancient walls of the Manoel Theatre.

Despite its venerable age, Teatru Manoel continues to live and develop. It promotes talented Maltese youth seeking careers in all fields of the art of theatre. Furthermore, since 2009, a junior theatre studio has been operating there.