Site Name: Her Majesty's Theatre
County: London (city-county)
Location Type: Town - in town at determined location
Address: Corner of Haymarket and Pall Mall. For a current map, Click Here. For historical maps showing the venue (in addition to the one excerpted at right), Click Here, Here, and Here.
Alternate Names: His Majesty’s Theatre, Queen’s Theatre, Italian Opera House.
Performance Space Description: Information about this venue has not yet been compiled; however, some sense of the performance space may be gleaned by following the links at right. In particular:
See the 'Bibliographic Sources' link for a provisional list of venue-relevant resources (both primary and secondary). Wherever possible (i.e. when the pertinent text is relatively short and/or easily condensed) this material has been transcribed, and appears beneath the appropriate bibliographic citation.
See the 'Events at venue' link for a listing of blackface/minstrelsy-related events that took place in this performance space (with attached bibliographic references).
Arthur Lloyd Website. 05/22/2008 (http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/)
Black’s New Guide to London and its Environs. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1863.
“HER MAJESTY'S THEATRE (Italian Opera House), Haymarket. Sir John Vanbrugh's was the first house on this site, opened in 1705. This having been burned down, the present house, designed by Novosielski, was built in 1790. The exterior arcades were added in 1820. The freehold of a box in this theatre has sold for £8000; and a rent of 300 guineas has been paid for a single season for one box. Very large sums have been expended by the management in keeping this theatre open, and it has been in difficulties for some years past. It will hold about 3000 persons” (214).
Also gives the following specifics for the theatre:
Width of the Proscenium - 47’
Number of Boxes/Tier – 43
Number Tiers of Boxes – 6
Width Between Boxes – 59’
Length (Curtain to Centre Box) – 88’
Height (pit to ceiling) – 52’ (213)
Carthalia - Theatres on Postcards Website. 09/14/2008 (http://www.andreas-praefcke.de/carthalia/index.html)
Clarke, Henry Green. London in All Its Glory. London: H.G. Clarke & Co., 1851.
“HER MAJSETY'S [sic] THEATRE, Haymarket. One of the most fashionable places of amusement in the metropolis, having been established to gratify the increasing taste of the public for exquisite music and elegant dancing. The present edifice was erected chiefly by M. Novosielski, on the site of the former theatre built by Sir John Vanbrugh ,and destroyed by fire in 1790. The interior has not undergone any material alteration since its completion; but the exterior was not finished until 1820, when it assumed its present appearance under the direction of Mr. Nash and Mr. G. Repton. Three sides of the building are encompassed by a colonnade, supported by cast-iron pillars of the Roman Doric order; and on the west side is a covered arcade. The front towards the Haymarket is decorated with a group of emblematic figures in basso-relievo, illustrative of the origin and progress of music and dancing executed in artificial stone, by Mr. J.G. Bubb. The dimensions of the interior are nearly those of La Scala, at Milan. The width of the stage is nearly eighty feet; its depth sixty-two feet; and from the centre boxes in the grand tier to the orchestra the depth is about the same. The five tiers, containing two hundred and ten boxes, have a light and elegant appearance, and will hold one thousand persons; the pit nearly eight hundred, and the gallery the same. The first three tiers of private boxes are the property of the nobility, or of wealthy commoners, and are let at from one hundred and fifty to four hundred guineas, according to the situation and size” (120-1).
Cunningham, P. Modern London; or, London as it is. London: John Murray, 1851.
”HER MAJESTY'S THEATRE, or the OPERA HOUSE, in the HAYMARKET. This, the largest theatre in Europe, except that of La Scala at Milan, and the second theatre on the same site, was built (1790) from the designs of Michael Novosielski, and altered and enlarged by Nash and Repton in 1816-18. The first theatre on the site was built and established (1705) by Sir John Vanbrugh, and burnt down in 1789. Many of the double boxes on the grand tier have sold for as much as 7000l and 8000l; a box on the pit tier has sold for 4000l. The leading attractions of this house are (1851) the Countess Rossi (Sontag), Mademoiselle Duprez, Carlotta Grisi, &c. The leader of the band is Mr. Balfe. Boxes let at prices averaging 21s a seat, but on special occasions prices are raised. Most of the boxes hold 4 persons. some on the lower tiers contain 8 or even 10 persons; Stalls at 15s to 25s; Pit at 8s. Those who resort to the pit must go early, and prepare for a squeeze. It was here that Jenny Lind sang. The Crush Room at the Opera, so called from its crowded character, abuts from the avenue leading to the pit” (175).
Davis, Jim & Victor Emeljanow. Reflecting the Audience. London Theatregoing, 1840-1880. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2001.
Cruchley’s Guide in 1841 described this theatre as “The most fashionable evening resort of our nobility and gentry” where “persons attending the it are expected to appear full dressed; that is, frock coats, coloured trowsers [sic], boots, etc., are not admissable” (185).
Dictionary of Victorian London Online. 07/27/2008 (http://www.victorianlondon.org/)
(Under Entertainment - Theatre & Shows - Theatres & Venues - Her Majesty's Theatre)
Elmes, James. Metropolitan Improvements; or London in the Nineteenth Century. London: Jones & Co., 1828.
”THE ITALIAN OPERA HOUSE, HAYMARKET, FROM PALL MALL. EAST. This is a joint design of Mr. Nash and his tasteful pupil Mr. Repton. It is as fine a specimen of the Palladian style of architecture as any in London, and the difficulty of the inclined plane on which it is erected is overcome with the skill of a master. The design is eminently theatrical, and therefore characteristic. Its arcades and colonnades are necessary appendages to such a building. The sculptures in the panels over the colonnade, representing the origin and progress of music and dancing, are executed in terra cotta by Mr. Bubb” (148).
Fitzgerald, Percy Hetherington. A New History of the English Stage, from the Restoration to the Liberty of the Theatres. London. Tinsley Brothers: 1882, .
Chapter 6 (pp236-26).
Howard, Diana. London Theatres and Music Halls 1850-1950. London: The Library Association, 1970.
London and its Environs. Leipsic: Karl Baedeker, 1885.
”HER MAJESTY'S THEATRE, or OPERA HOUSE, corner of Haymarket and Pall MalI. This theatre, originally erected by Vanbrugh in 1705, was burned down in 1789, rebuilt by Novosielski the following year, and extended by Nash and Repton in 1816-18. The interior was again destroyed by fire in December 1867, but since then the theatre has been entirely restored. Italian operas are performed here” (37).
London as it is To-day. London: H.G. Clarke & Co., 1851.
The information provided within this source is similar to that given within London in all its Glory, also published by H.G. Clarke, & Co.
In addition, this source also contains the following:
“The interior which is scarcely surpassed in size, is unrivalled for the beauty of its form and decorations. The coup d’oeil on first entering, is dazzling, but it rivets, not repels the sight, as the eye becomes familiar with the brilliancy that bursts upon it, a sense of pleasurable satisfaction is experienced; which is renewed every time the spectator turns from the stage to throw a glance round the house. The style of decoration is Italian, of the time of Raphael, and Julio Romano; the Vatican, and other palaces of Italy, furnishing the designs. Each tier of boxes is differently ornamented with arabesque scrolls, interspersed with medallions of figures, on gold or coloured grounds; pictures and ornaments in imitation of relief; enriched with burnished gold mouldings, and subdued by amber draperies. The profusion of bright yellow silk hangings, and the golden glossiness of their satin surface, lighted by a brilliant chandelier, shed such a flood of lustre around, that the gay tints of the paintings are toned down to a chaste and delicate harmony of quiet hues, and the chintz linings of the boxes become almost colourless. The effect is lively as well as rich, and so far from fatiguing the sense, it is delightful to dwell upon; whilst the longer we look, the more vivacity do the pictorial decorations appear to possess. Pale blue and brown, enlivened with red, prevail. Red predominates in the ceiling, to which the eye is gradually led by a progressive diminution in the quantity of intense hues from the lower tier, where it is freely used to the upper, where there is little positive colour, and none in masses. The contrast between the upper tier and the ceiling is very striking; the vast circle is well defined, and supported by architectural forms, and its sm face varied by circular pictures, and other devices. The opening over the gallery is admirably contrived to produce a novel and agreeable effect: the ceiling and walls are coloured sky-blue, and this mass of retiring coolness is very refreshing to the eye. […]
Visitors to all parts of the theatre, except the gallery, are expected to appear in evening costume – frock coats, and coloured trousers and cravats, not being admissible. […]
Attached to the theatre, is an elegant concert room, ninety-five feet long, forty-six feet broad, and thirty-five feet high, handsomely fitted up with orchestra, and boxes, in which, during the season, benefit concerts, on a large scale are given" (207-8)
The London Stage 1800-1900 (University of Massachusetts). 03/23/2008 (http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~a0fs000/1800/1800.html)
London Theatre Direct Website. 09/04/2008 (http://www.londontheatredirect.com/information/seatingplans.htm)
London Theatres Website (Templeman Library, University of Kent at Canterbury). 05/22/2008 (http://library.kent.ac.uk/library/special/html/specoll/theindex.htm)
Bibliography ID 8559. 09/04/2008 (http://www.rutheatres.com/index.htm)
Timbs, John. Curiosities of London (1868). London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1868.
“HER MAJESTY'S THEATRE.- The first theatre for performance of Italian operas in England was built by subscription, by Sir John Vanbrugh, at the south-west corner of the Haymarket, and was opened April 9 1705 […] On June 17, 1789, the theatre was burnt down; and upon the same site, enlarged. April 3, 1790, was laid the first stone of the present Opera House, designed by Novosielski, who introduced the horse-shoe form of auditory, from the Italian theatres. In 1820 the exterior was altered by Nash and Repton in the Roman-Doric style, as we now see it, fronted with arcade and colonnade: each of the iron columns is a single casting. The Haymarket front bears a basso-relievo, by Bubb, of lithargolite, or artificial stone, illustrating the progress of Music; Apollo and the Muses occupying the centre. The interior, at the time of its erection, was larger than that of La Scala at Milan, or the Theatre Italien at Paris. The audience and stage ground are held on two distinct leases. The whole theatre is lined with thin wood in very long pieces, as the best conductor of sound. It was entirely re-decorated in the Raphaelesque and Roman style in 1846. Horace Walpole's box was No. 3, on the grand tier. There are 177 boxes, the freehold of some of which has been sold for 7000 and 8000 guineas: the season-rent is 300 guineas; a small box, fourth tier, has been let for one night at 12 guineas. When Mr. Lumley purchased the theatre in 1844, he realized 90,000l. by selling boxes in perpetuity. The house will accommodate about 3000 persons. The drop-scene was painted by Stanfield, R.A. The decorations, after ancient masters, are extremely beautiful. […]” (788)
Also gives the theatre’s capacity (in 1866) as 2200 (789)
Timbs, John. Curiosities of London (1855). London: David Bogue, 1855.
The information provided within this source is much the same as that given within the 1868 edition of the book.
Walford, Edward. Old and New London Vol. 4 (1878). Reproduced at British History Online. 03/21/2008 (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=342)