After five years in the planning, the 10-month project to restore the Grand Opera House has begun. The principal contractor for the £12.2 million project, funded in part through the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is Tracey Brothers Ltd, who will complete the work ahead of the Theatre’s 125th birthday in December of this year.
With more than 60 years’ experience of construction, restoration and fit out works, Tracey Brothers Ltd are one of the major building contractors in Northern Ireland. In recent years the company has successfully undertaken major restoration and re-development of many of Belfast’s historic land mark buildings including Riddell Hall at Queens University Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol, Cleaver House, HMS Caroline Historic Buildings and the Parliament Buildings at Stormont Estate.
Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House said: “The Grand Opera House was last restored 40 years ago, and we are delighted that Tracey Brothers have been appointed to oversee this vital project.
“Between January and November of this year, thanks to the support of lottery players and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we will restore the iconic and unique 1895 auditorium and transform the public areas of the building, including installing the first ever permanent exhibition to tell the fascinating story of the Theatre’s 125-year history. We look forward to working with the Tracey Brothers team throughout the months ahead on this exciting project.”
The Grand Opera House was designed by the leading Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham and completed in 1895. Many of the world’s leading actors, singers, dancers and entertainers have appeared on its stage, including Charlie Chaplin, Sarah Bernhardt, Laurence Olivier, Vera Lynn, Luciano Pavarotti, Darcey Bussell and Laurel and Hardy.
As part of the restoration and development project, the auditorium’s decorative paint and plasterwork will be repaired and restored, and seating, carpets, curtains and drapes will be replaced. The Theatre’s technical infrastructure will be upgraded, and customer facilities including those for customers with access needs will be improved. The design of the foyer and public spaces will be reimagined, a new bar will be installed in the glass extension overhanging Great Victoria Street, and the permanent exhibition is expected to attract thousands of visitors each year.
John Tracey, Director at Tracey Brothers Ltd added: “It’s a privilege to work on such a prestigious heritage project as this. It’s rare to have the opportunity to restore a venue with a history and an auditorium as rich and spectacular as the Grand Opera House. We recognise the importance of these works being carried out in a sensitive manner to ensure this historic value is respected and retained for future generations and we’re very pleased to play a role in securing the Theatre’s future for many years to come”.