It’s the first time a politician has admitted that the Royal Opera House, now known as the Valletta Open Theater might be getting a roof. The photo above shows the building back in 1896 in all it’s glory. It was unfortunately bombed during World War II and never repaired only to be transformed into an open theatre which was highly criticized by the Maltese.
Culture Minister Owen Bonnici this morning, during a press conference announced that the government will be considering installing a retractible roof on Renzo Piano’s Pjazza Teatru Rjal, this should increase the potential for this site, the Minister said.
The image below shows the theater in it’s present form, it has been described as an architectural masterpiece, but unfortunately it cannot be utilized to it’s full potential as performers are shying away from producing anything in this theater due to it’s disadvantages, in winter performances risk being cancelled due to rain and cold, whilst in summer the intense heat makes it unbearable to perform any sort of artistic expression in this area.
In 2006 the government announced a proposal to redevelop the site for a dedicated House of Parliament, which by then was located in the former Armoury of the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta. The proposal was not well received since it had always been assumed that the site would eventually be developed into something that would house a cultural institution, however Renzo Piano was again approached and started to work on new designs.
The proposal was ostensibly shelved until after the general elections of 2008 and, on 1 December 2008, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi revived the proposal with a budget of €80 million. Piano dissuaded the Government from building a Parliament on site of the Opera House, instead planning a House of Parliament on present-day Freedom Square and a re-modelling of the city gate. Piano proposed an open-air theatre for the site citing the following rationale:
First, the site is too small to contain a Parliament Building as was initially envisaged. Secondly, in spite of the fact that other small old theatres run successfully as modern theatres, it was claimed that a modern theatre of conventional size would not fit in this site considering today’s requirements for rehearsal, backstage facilities and accessibility, besides generating exorbitant running costs. Thirdly, Piano declared that he strongly believed that “after more than 60 years of controversy, the ruins of the demolished opera have undeniably reached the status of monument, irrevocable witness of history and the dignity of collective memory”, a statement that was strongly contested by many Maltese who maintained that it was not up to Renzo Piano to decide another nation’s collective memory.
The plans for all three developments have caused controversy. The government still went ahead with the plans and the open-air theatre was officially inaugurated on 8 August 2013. The theatre was named Pjazza Teatru Rjal after the original structure. The name translates to Royal Theatre Square, but the venue is always referred to by its Maltese name, even when written about in English.