FERMANAGH firm Tracey Brothers has commenced work on the £12.2 million restoration of the Grand Opera House in Belfast.
Five years in the planning, the heritage lottery fund-backed project is set to be completed in time for the 125th anniversary of the venue in December.
Originally completed in 1895, it’s around 40 years since the Grand Opera House was last restored.
Over the past century, the historic stage has been graced by performers including Charlie Chaplin, Laurence Olivier, Vera Lynn, Luciano Pavarotti and Laurel and Hardy.
Tracey Brothers’ has already carried out a series of conservation projects, including Riddell Hall at Queens University, Crumlin Road Gaol, HMS Caroline and Parliament Buildings at the Stormont Estate.
Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House, Ian Wilson, said: “Between January and November of this year, thanks to the support of lottery players and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we will restore the iconic and unique 1895 auditorium and transform the public areas of the building, including installing the first ever permanent exhibition to tell the fascinating story of the Theatre’s 125-year history.”
The project involves the repair and restoration of the auditorium’s decorative paint and plasterwork. Seating, carpets, curtains and drapes will also be replaced. The theatre’s technical infrastructure will be upgraded, and customer facilities including those for customers with access needs will be improved. The design of the foyer and public spaces is being reimagined, with a new bar set to be installed in the glass extension overhanging Great Victoria Street.
John Tracey, director at Tracey Brothers said: “It’s a privilege to work on such a prestigious heritage project as this. It’s rare to have the opportunity to restore a venue with a history and an auditorium as rich and spectacular as the Grand Opera House.
“We recognise the importance of these works being carried out in a sensitive manner to ensure this historic value is respected and retained for future generations and we’re very pleased to play a role in securing the theatre’s future for many years to come.”