We aim to be an accessible event space for all- Asad Lalljee, Curator, The Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House, Mumbai, now one of the last remaining Baroque structures in the city, reopened after 23 years in October 2016. With this, the Royal Opera House, Mumbai re-established itself as a performance space of international quality, a cultural venue with a total seating capacity of 575 and a prime example of restored and renewed city heritage.
The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is India’s only surviving Opera House. Inaugurated in 1911 by King George V, the design incorporated a blend of European and Indian detailing. The space became a cinema in later years before shutting in the 1990s. Fittingly, the space has been owned by the Royal Family of Gondal since 1952 and was eventually restored by the conservation architect, Abha Narain Lambah under the leadership of the current Maharaja of Gondal, Shri Jyotendrasinhji.
The reopened facility features a 574- seater auditorium across three levels with technological up gradations, including acoustics, stagecraft, lighting and air- conditioning, while retaining the old world charm of the proscenium stage, the royal boxes and the magnificent regal chandeliers. Some more enhancements to the venue include a motorized screen, co-axial ceiling speaker system, four-zone volume control and all round wifi access.
Since the opening, in a few short months, the ROHM has played venue to a number of Indian and international performers, ensembles, choirs and groups including Paranjyoti Choir, Neemrana Foundation, The Mehli Mehta Foundation, Sinfonia Verdi, Orchestra da Camera di Mantova, The Asia Society, Aga Khan Music Foundation, Louiz Banks, Tara Sutaria, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his sons, Sarod sensations, Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash.
Novel shows like “New Music from the Ends of the Silk Route” brought together artists-performers from Afghanistan, China, Italy and Syria.
The ROHM has a long-standing connection to this city’s most famous industry- film. By 1917, the Opera House, like many other theatres, became in part a cinema, embracing the advent of films and their popularity. With the coming of the "talkies” in the early 1930s, the popularity of cinema increased and the opera house was modified to accommodate movie screenings and fashion shows. The ROHM hosted several premiers of famous hindi movies. The 1975 film Prem Kahani, contained scenes shot inside the Opera House, and actor Shashi Kapoor was a regular patron. Now fully restored to its pre-cinema glory, the ROHM still embraces its film legacy. As an homage, one of the first events ROHM reopened with was the Opening Ceremony of the Jio Mami Film Festival with Star. The second edition of the international film festival Russian Film Days was also held in part here.
Regional theater was also given an early platform here. The opera house also hosted live theatre performances by the likes of Prithviraj Kapoor, and Marathi stalwarts like Bal Gandharva and Dinanath Mangeshkar. More recently, the ROHM has had Yugpurush a Hindi and Gujarati play that celebrates the relationship Gandhiji shared with poet, philosopher and saint Shrimad Rajchandra, his spiritual guide, who inspired him and was a major influence behind many of his beliefs. Rediscover The Epic based on the Ramayana was a multi-layered production set in a contemporary framework which flashes back to the times of the Ramayana in all its resplendent glory. With a cast of 150 children and young adults, Epic stuck to the original plot, infusing it with contemporary concerns.
ENTERTAINMENT AND STAND-UP COMEDY
The entertainment extravaganza at the opera house was started by American magician Raymond in 1916. This legacy of popular forms of entertainment also continues today with successful stand-up comedy acts like Kannan Gill, Aditi Mittal and Kenny Sebastian.
The Curatorial Director of the Royal Opera House Mumbai, Asad Lalljee, envisions the venue as a space to invigorate cultural diplomatic relations. As a result, in the short months after the venue has reopened, a number of diplomatic bodies like the Chinese Embassy, the Russian Embassy, Italian Embassy Cultural Centre and French Embassy have all held key cultural programmes here.
Apart from being committed and active patrons of art, culture and education, the Royal family of Gondal has always believed in the importance of arts for social change. Recently, the ROHM joined the global movement to increase awareness on Autism on World Autism Awareness Day by being illuminated with blue light in solidarity with the cause.
HERITAGE WALKS AND TOURS
The building’s place as a heritage icon that has been re-gifted to the city is undeniable and the building’s stewardship has made conscious decisions to include the venue in Heritage Walks and Tours which allows the space to be accessible to curious locals and visitors alike, who have the opportunity to learn not just about the opulently restored structure, but also the ROHM’s positioning in Mumbai’s entertainment industry, its role in the evolution from street theatre to cinema, and its operatic legacy.
FASHION SHOOTS AND EVENTS
The Royal Opera House, with its regal interiors has served as a glamorous backdrop for fashion shoots for Grazia Magazine and the House of Kotwara.
This season will also see the launch of a café and gift shop on the premises and a auxiliary art programming to enhance the space and its curatorial program further.
Speaking of his plans to make the Royal Opera House a cultural hub Curator of the property Asad Lalljee says, "We are committed to hosting quality performances and events through meaningful collaborations spanning the breadth of culture and the performing arts. We are keen to invite regional & international operatic performers, solo artistes, dance troops, music ensembles, musicians, literary figures, theatre troops, symphonies and more.
While balancing the financials of a newly reopened space and the constraints that come with it, our aim is to stay true to its legacy and history while building a contemporary, forward thinking brand with comprehensive thoughts, ideas and programming. Therefore, our program is a diverse mix of corporate and remunerative events, broad based support for the arts, eclectic performances, cultural diplomacy and socially conscious ventures. From hosting film festivals, design awards, English and regional plays, children’s theatre troops, stand-up comedy acts and showcasing stalwarts from the worlds of Western and Indian Classical music to serving as the glamorous backdrop for fashion shoots, and galvanizing the cultural heritage of the city, the Royal Opera House Mumbai aims to reach across age barriers, cultural niches and even country borders to be an accessible space for all."
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