Travel back in time

Aug 11, 2018, 08:25 IST | Vinitha Ramchandani

Royal Opera House (Indoors)

Travel back in time

Most of us in Mumbai have heard of or headed to Opera House, the area, and perhaps engaged in this internal dialogue: Why is the place called Opera House? Well, long back there used to be an opera house here. A place where operas were performed. Really? Really.

before
Before

And now, here we are, heading to see the place that named a whole district, having heard of the excitement it created a few years ago, when the opera house was being restored. What would that mean? How would the place look? I've imagined the Opera House so much that last Saturday, after seeing a quiet Facebook notification of a guided walkthrough of the Royal Opera House (ROH), I dragged my 13-year-old daughter and headed there.

After
After

As you pass Chowpatty and then race through Charni Road station, you spot the gable of the building and your heart swells. It is there. Tucked in, in the crowded lanes, yet not tucked in. Go there and you'll see what I mean. And, it was more splendid than I had imagined.

When you walk into this place you can't help being wowed by the elegant but imposing structure. Kruti Garg, an integral part of Abha Narain Lambah's architectural team, and Asad Lalljee, curator of the ROH, take us through its history and how the restoration was approached.

As we walk through the opera house, Garg guides the group on the fabric assessment undertaken to understand the pulse of the structure, its character, inherent qualities, the style and what it was made of, and what it could evolve to be. A packed house of collegians and adults listen to how all the pieces were put together, and the right restoration strategy was chosen, integrating it with world class sound systems, yet taking care that it did not intrude on the heritage structure and its seamless repair.

A year after it reopened, the structure was awarded the UNESCO-Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Conservation
A year after it reopened, the structure was awarded the UNESCO-Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Conservation

All of this so that Mumbaikars have access to a multi-performing art space, so they can re-experience debate, dialogue, discourse, dance, and of course, the opera. In December, the ROH will be hosting a children's literature festival but in the meantime, do head to the majestic venue with your kids to experience performance at its best.

Fact File

Where: Mama Parmanand Marg, Opera House.
Best for: Boys and girls from age 10 upwards.
How to reach: Get off at Charni Road station and walk. A number of bus routes pass through ROH too.
Timings: All days, 10 am to 6 pm
Budget: Walkthroughs for children can be done on prior notice. Fee for the same depends on the group size.
Call 23668888.
Food: There's a cafeteria within the premises, but no food and water allowed in the main hall.
Water: Available.
Rest Room facilities: Yes.
Where else to go: Girgaum Chowpatty is close at hand, as is the Taraporewala Aquarium. You can also make a stop at Mahendra Park in Breach Candy, or the Hanging Gardens further up.

The Royal Opera House timeline

*The Royal Opera House is India's only surviving opera house.
*It was built in 1912, with a few additions made to it in 1915.
*In 1909, when the foundation stone was laid by the British Raj and subsequently, when in 1911 King George V inaugurated the under-construction building, the word Royal got prefixed to Opera House to reflect the monarchical connect.
*In 1935, Ideal Pictures bought it, and renovated it to a full-fledged movie theatre.
*It was a booming movie theatre, until the advent of videos in the 1980s, when it started falling into disrepair.
*In January 1991, the last movie was screened here.
*In 1952, it was bought by the Royal family of Gondal on a 999-year lease.

Parent Poll: Proud that we can experience the heritage structure again.
Rating: ****
Kids' Poll: Wowed by the sound system and the detailed sculpturing and the box seats. “Imagine being part of an opera here!” said my wonderstruck daughter.
Rating: ****

play

What's Good: Experiencing history.
What's Not So Good: Not accessible to people with disabilities.

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