£2m Manchester Opera House restoration completes

Manchester Opera House

A £2m project to restore the traditional windows and façade of the Grade II-listed Manchester Opera House has reached completion.

The scheme began in spring 2023 in partnership with Salford-based principal contractor, MC Construction, Osbornes Chartered Architects, Motion Projects Management, quantity surveyors Marshall Kenny and design consultancy ORSA.

Works included extensive repairs to the render, brickwork, windows and ironmongery fixings alongside the replacement of rainwater goods to deliver a complete refresh to the landmark’s façade.

These works have helped to ensure a more historically authentic exterior, and to help safeguard the venue for future generations to enjoy. The theatre remained open throughout this project.

Careful analysis of the existing paint layers stretching back over a century was undertaken, so the colour scheme of the façade and windows now better reflects how the venue would have looked when it first opened in 1912.

Weatherproofing was also a vital component, with the use of lime render to replace sections of the existing concrete render, extensive repairs of cracked and loose render, and the introduction of new lead detailing to improve the waterproofing of projecting sections.

Also, the new mineral paint used to decorate the façade has an increased vapour permeability, allowing the façade to breathe where lime render has been introduced.

The works underwent stringent assessment by the Local Conservation Officer to achieve formal Listed Building Consent.

The c. £2m updates form a significant portion of the total c.£4.5m CapEX investment that has been made across both the Opera House and its sister venue the Palace Theatre this financial year.

In addition to the exterior refurbishment, a wide range of other works have been completed to refresh, maintain, and upgrade areas inside the Opera House building, including star dressing rooms, backstage areas, the Ambassador Lounge, and toilets on every level of the theatre.

Further investments have included upgrading the Palace Theatre’s dimmer system, as well a substantial upgrade to its auditorium ventilation system. Both theatres have remained open throughout these works.

Robin Hawkes, Theatre Director at the Palace Theatre & Opera House, said: “In tandem with the Palace, the Opera House has been a jewel in the heart of Manchester’s cultural fabric for many generations. So I am delighted we’ve been able to restore and refresh the theatre’s beautiful Edwardian exterior, as part of a wider suite of works which will improve the experience of everybody visiting and using the two venues, for years to come.”

Stefan Ziemelis, Senior Project Manager at ATG Entertainment, said: “In addition to delivering essential repair works, this project has also been driven by the celebration of the intrinsic character and uniqueness that is woven into this heritage building.

“Working with our partners to breathe new life into the Opera House has been a rewarding experience and it’s good to know that the work we have completed here will preserve and protect the theatre for future generations of theatre lovers.’’

Russ Forshaw, Managing Director of MC Construction, said: “Drawing on our extensive experience of successfully delivering projects at numerous listed buildings and other landmarks across the city, such as The Whitworth art gallery, Manchester Museum and the Imperial Chinese Arch in the city’s Chinatown, we are delighted to have undertaken this restoration scheme at the Opera House, which is less than a mile from our company headquarters.

“Once again, our team have produced the goods and left their mark on a cherished Manchester building.”

The project’s architect, Ian Edwards, of Osbornes Chartered Architects, said: “Delivering plans on historical buildings such as the Opera House often involve an exact and highly detailed approach. It’s been a fulfilling project to work on and we hope that visitors to Manchester enjoy seeing the Opera House returned to its original splendour.’’

Originally The New Theatre when it opened on Boxing Day in 1912, the theatre has been through several iterations, being renamed once before becoming the Opera House in 1920.

It’s also been used for different functions, as a cinema in WW2, then a bingo hall before reopening as a theatre again in 1984. The venue now plays host to high profile concerts, musicals, ballets and a popular Christmas pantomime each year.

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