In a narrow street to the west of the Baroque city of Valletta stands one of the oldest theatres in Europe. It is certainly the oldest theatre in the Commonwealth. To this day, it is still, and will continue to be, a living, working theatre. Teatru Manoel (also known as Manoel Theatre Malta) was built in 1731, in just one calendar year, by the Portuguese Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena. Grand Master De Vilhena was so personally involved in its conception and construction that it was paid for out of his own pocket.
The theatre has had a somewhat chequered existence, apart from staging plays, concerts, operas and other theatrical fare, the Manoel has also served as a cinema and even a doss house.
After many decades of neglect in the 20th century, the building was eventually restored and reopened in 1960 as a theatre again. The very first performance at the rejuvenated Manoel was by the prestigious English ballet company The Ballet Rambert.
Since then many world famous artistes have graced the Manoel Theatre Malta stage. These include Yehudi Menuhin, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Louis Kentner, Mrstislav Rostropovich, the great flamenco guitarist Paco Pena, actors like Clive Owen in his first ever professional appearance with the Young Vic Company, plus Michael MacLiammoir, Michael Dennison, Julian Fellowes, Steven Berkoff and John Neville.
Despite its age, the Manoel Theatre continues to be a living theatre, with a season running from October to May. Last year the Manoel Theatre launched the Children’s Theatre Programme. The theatre is no longer a place for the adults only, but an experience to be enjoyed by all ages!
The Manoel Theatre
is also the forerunner to promote local talent in all fields of the dramatic arts. Maltese opera singers participate and collaborate with foreign performers in the Opera Festival held every March at the Manoel. World-famous international ballet companies have held workshops to local dance schools. Local artists are commissioned to create productions to be performed at the theatre.