Valletta’s Crown Jewel: The Manoel Theatre

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The Manoel is one of Europe’s oldest running theatres!


The Manoel Theatre is Valletta’s 288-year-old treasure trove of art, culture and history. Located on Old Theatre Street in the capital city of Malta, the building is the third oldest theatre in Europe. Its history is as rich as that of Valletta, and it has experienced several changes since its construction in 1731.


Early Years of the Manoel Theatre

The Theatre, which is often referred to as, simply, ‘The Manoel’, was built by the Knights of St John and personally commissioned by Portuguese Grand Master Fra Antonio Manoel de Vilhena. The beautiful interiors of the theatre are adorned with gold leaf, velvet and floral motifs. Since being built in 1731, the Manoel has been providing the public with honest entertainment, fulfilling the intention of Grandmaster de Vilhena. In fact, upon entering the theatre, one can see the Latin phrase ‘ad honestam populi oblectationem’, inscribed above the main entrance.


The British Period

Following the Knights’ departure at the end of the 18th century, the Manoel Theatre was overshadowed by the inauguration of the Royal Opera House, built by the British in 1866. But the Manoel continued to be rented out to impresarios during this period, and, as the island’s entertainment centre, it played host to many productions for the enjoyment of both local and international audiences.

The Second World War

During the Second World War, Malta became one of the most heavily bombed places on earth. The Manoel Theatre served as a shelter for the homeless and victims of the carpet bombings that destroyed much of Valletta, including the Royal Opera House. Although the building was not seriously damaged, the theatre required careful refurbishment following the war. Local artisans and international experts worked hand in hand to restore the building to its former glory, with its 22 carat gilded ceiling, tiny panels and paintings that decorate the viewing boxes.


Re-opening of the Manoel Theatre

The grand re-opening of the Manoel Theatre took place in December 1960, with a performance of Coppelia by the Ballet Rambert marking a new chapter in the Manoel’s story. The beloved theatre is now the island’s National Theatre, which has seen countless performances unfolding on its magnificent stage. Nowadays, the Manoel presents a range of shows spanning different genres, including drama, opera, dance and pantomime, to name a few.

If you don’t manage to see a show during your stay in Malta, why not pay a visit to the Manoel throughout the week instead? Visiting hours are Monday to Friday at 09:30hrs to 16:30hrs and Saturday from 10:00hrs to 14:00hrs.


Fancy a night at the theatre? Book your stay at any of our AX Hotels to make the most of your trip.


Photo Credits go to The Manoel Theatre

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