The Royal Opera House, Valletta (old postcard)

The Royal Opera House, Valletta, Malta, as it once was. E. M. Barry. 1862-66; rebuilt after a fire, 1873-77 (Ellul 13); bombed on 7 April 1942 (Praefcke). Scan by Andreas Praefcke, from his fine collection of theatre postcards at Carthalia. Caption and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee.

After his success with the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, Barry was asked to design a grand opera house for the capital of Malta, Valletta. Rightly numbered among his "distinguished works" (Burnet and Blissett), the building had over a thousand seats and was in a very prominent position just inside the city gate at the top of Republic Street: it must have been extraordinarily impressive. Jesmond Grech writes that "it gave an invaluable boost to the artistic and cultural lives of the Maltese" (41). The bombed-out building makes a sad sight now. So far, proposals to rebuild it have been unsuccessful; fortunately, so has the proposal to turn the area into a multi-storey car park. There is every hope of its resurrection. The latest idea is for an open-air theatre, but there is also a plan to raise funds for a fine state-of-the-art 800-seat theatre with a roof (Johnston).

Other Views


Burnet, G. W., rev. David G. Blissett. "Barry, Edward Middleton (1830-1880)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Viewed 5 March 2010.

Ellul, Michael. Maltese-English Dictionary of Architecture and Building in Malta. Sta Venera, Malta: Midsea Books, 2009.

Grech, Jesmond. British Heritage in Malta. Sesto Florentino (Fi): Centro Stampa Editoriale (Plurigraf), 2003.

Johnston, Waylon. "33c a day to get opera house back." Times of Malta, 25 February 2010.

Last modified 5 March 2010