Although now home to the English National Opera and the English National Ballet, The London Coliseum originally was one of the largest and most luxurious variety theatres in London. It opened in 1904 as the London Coliseum Theatre of Varieties designed by the theatrical architect Frank Matcham for famous impresario Oswald Stoll. At the time of construction, it was the only theatre in Europe that provided lifts for taking patrons to the upper levels of the house, and was the first theatre in England to have a triple revolve installed on its stage. The theatre has 2,359 seats which makes it the largest theatre in London.The theatre changed its name from the London Coliseum to the Coliseum Theatre between 1931 and 1968 when it was known for its musical comedies, pantomimes and in the 1950s, American musicals including Kiss Me, Kate, Guys and Dolls and the Pajama Game. From 1961 to 1968, the theatre was converted into a cinema and was known as the Coliseum Cinerama.
The Coliseum reverted to the original name when the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company moved there in 1968 and, in 1974, the Company changed its name to become the English National Opera and the Company bought the freehold of the building for £12.8 million in 1992. Between 2000 and 2004, the theatre underwent extensive renovations and was restored to its grand Edwardian decoration with new public spaces.
The English National Opera has presented all the major operas of Mozart, Wagner and Puccini, and a wide range of Verdi’s operas. It also staged other lesser known operas and commissioned new works. The company sings in English and is keen to widen access to the genre, recent critical successes include Sweeney Todd and The Mastersingers. The Theatre also stages a number of dance and ballet productions throughout the year.
For more information visit the ENO website here
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