One of the oldest working theatres in the world, the Manoel Theatre, is located in Old Theatre Street in the heart of Valletta. It was built in 1732 by Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena and is rightly considered a magnificent jewel in the capital city’s crown. A 623 seat venue with an oval-shaped auditorium and tiers of boxes, the theatre is home to the brilliant Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. With the boxes made of wood and adorned with 22-carat gold lead and a shade of pale blue, the interior has underwent a number of alterations whilst still retaining its original features such as the white Carrara marble staircase and impressive chandeliers.


The theatre is a baroque gem with a wonderful acoustic environment. Today it stages everything from contemporary plays to opera and attracts performers from all around the world. As an active participant in promoting local talent in drama, the theatre also invites Maltese opera singers to collaborate with foreign performers in the Opera Festival every March.

During the Second World War, the Manoel Theatre managed to escape any serious damage. It served as a shelter for the homeless and victims of the bombings during that prolonged siege and provided a welcome refuge for the beleaguered and war weary Maltese.


Many visitors to Valletta, lucky like me to have discovered this architectural gem, take a tour around the fascinating, historic and spectacular theatre. Guided tours of the theatre and its museum are conducted daily. Lavish stage costumes are on display at the museum, along with antique sound-effects machines and archival programmes. This tour will take you through the theatre itself as well as the attached museum which covers much of the fascinating history of the Manoel Theatre. It is well worth the modest entry fee and the audio guide gives you an insight into both the history of the building and the cultural life of Malta.


From ‘IN LOVE WITH MALTA’ (The Hidden Treasures)

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