Coliseum Theatre

Coliseum Theatre

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The London Coliseum is an opera house
Opera house
An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building...

 and major performing venue on St. Martin's Lane
St. Martin's Lane
St. Martin's Lane is a street on the edge of Covent Garden in Central London, which runs from the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, after which it is named, near Trafalgar Square northwards to Long Acre.A narrow street with relatively little traffic, St...

, central London
Central London
Central London is the innermost part of London, England. There is no official or commonly accepted definition of its area, but its characteristics are understood to include a high density built environment, high land values, an elevated daytime population and a concentration of regionally,...

. It is one of London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

's largest and best equipped theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

s and opened in 1904, designed by theatrical architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 Frank Matcham
Frank Matcham
Frank Matcham was a famous English theatrical architect. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery.-Early career:...

 (designer of the London Palladium
London Palladium
The London Palladium is a 2,286 seat West End theatre located off Oxford Street in the City of Westminster. From the roster of stars who have played there and many televised performances, it is arguably the most famous theatre in London and the United Kingdom, especially for musical variety...

), for impresario
An impresario is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays or operas; analogous to a film producer in filmmaking, television production and an angel investor in business...

 Oswald Stoll
Oswald Stoll
Sir Oswald Stoll was an Australian-born British theatre manager and the co-founder of the Stoll Moss Group theatre company...

. Their ambition was to build the largest and finest 'People's palace of entertainment' of its age.


The inaugural performance was a variety
Variety show
A variety show, also known as variety arts or variety entertainment, is an entertainment made up of a variety of acts, especially musical performances and sketch comedy, and normally introduced by a compère or host. Other types of acts include magic, animal and circus acts, acrobatics, juggling...

 bill on 24 December 1904. In 1911, dramatist W. S. Gilbert
W. S. Gilbert
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was an English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for his fourteen comic operas produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, of which the most famous include H.M.S...

 produced his last play here, The Hooligan
The Hooligan
The Hooligan, A Character Study is a one-act play by W. S. Gilbert. It opened at the Coliseum Theatre in London on 27 February 1911 and ran for a month, being played both in the evenings and at matinees, for a total of about 42 performances....


The theatre changed its name from the London Coliseum to the Coliseum Theatre between 1931 and 1968 when 651 performances of the musical comedy White Horse Inn started on 8 April 1931). It reverted to the original name when the Sadler's Wells Opera Company (having moved from Sadler's Wells Theatre
Sadler's Wells Theatre
Sadler's Wells Theatre is a performing arts venue located in Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell in the London Borough of Islington. The present day theatre is the sixth on the site since 1683. It consists of two performance spaces: a 1,500 seat main auditorium and the Lilian Baylis Studio, with extensive...

) moved to the Coliseum in 1968. The Company changed its name to the English National Opera
English National Opera
English National Opera is an opera company based in London, resident at the London Coliseum in St. Martin's Lane. It is one of the two principal opera companies in London, along with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden...

 in 1974 and bought the freehold of the building for £12.8m.

From 16 June 1963 it became the second of London's three Cinerama Theatres, first showing the 3-strip version for the first 5 months, then 70mm single strip film was shown until 22 May 1968 when it screened its final movie.

It underwent extensive renovations between 2000 and 2004 and has the widest proscenium arch in London as well as being one of the earliest to have electric lighting. It was built with a revolving stage although this was rarely used. The theatre retains many of its original features and was Grade II* listed by English Heritage
English Heritage
English Heritage . is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport...

 in September 1960. The design team for the refurbishment was RHWL (architects), Arup Acoustics (acousticians) and Arup (building engineers).

The theatre hosted both the 2004 and 2006 Royal Variety Performance
Royal Variety Performance
The Royal Variety Performance is a gala evening held annually in the United Kingdom, which is attended by senior members of the British Royal Family, usually the reigning monarch. In more recent years Queen Elizabeth II and The Prince of Wales have alternately attended the performance...

, in the presence of HRH the Prince of Wales.

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