Skip to main content

Opera House


Originally named the New Theatre and renamed New Queen’s Theatre in 1915, it became the Opera House in 1920. For some years before its closure in 1979 it was Manchester’s principal touring theatre. It spent the next five years as a bingo house but was sold to the Palace Trust in 1984 and returned to live theatre use. The Trust had previously refurbished the Manchester Palace Theatre. In 1990 the two theatres were acquired by Apollo Leisure. The Opera House has become the home of large-scale musicals.

The stuccoed façade is an impressive essay in the neo-Classical manner of C R Cockerell (via the nearby Theatre Royal). The whole façade is channel-rusticated. Above the ground floor there is a broad frontispiece of 3+5+3 bays, the centre with an order of Ionic engaged columns, the outer pairs of columns advanced, with the cornice breaking forward. On either side the order is expressed with pilasters. Above the three middle bays is a large relief of a horse-drawn chariot, framed within a semi-circular arch. This rises into a very broad pedimental gable with a bracketed crowning cornice.

The large auditorium has two very deep, slightly curved cantilevered balconies of approximately 500 seats each, which overhang to an excessive degree, evidence, perhaps, of the architect’s unfamiliarity with theatre design, producing poor sight-lines at the rear and a feeling of oppressiveness.

The space between the balcony fronts and the stage is architecturally impressive. It displays an assured handling of Neo-Classical motifs. Flanking each side is a stack of superimposed boxes between pairs of giant fluted Corinthian columns. The upper boxes are a later insertion, following the removal of heavily-draped canopies over the dress-circle boxes. The balcony and box fronts are formed of enriched iron balustrading. Spanning between the entablatures over the giant columns is a deep, coffered segmental arch which forms the tympanum above the high rectangular proscenium, filled by a large circular medallion flanked by winged gryphons. The immensely high main ceiling, covering the full width and depth of the auditorium, is in the form of a coffered segmental tunnel vault.

The theatre is ingeniously planned to take maximum advantage of the site, with the stalls below street level and the main entrance foyer formed within the void of the first balcony - the rear wall of the auditorium thus forming the wall of the street façade.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1984 - 1979: continuing
Current state
Current use
Quay Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 3HP, England
Further details
Other names
New Theatre , New Queen’s Theatre
  • 1912 Design/Construction: Richardson & Gill
    - Architect
  • 1915 Owner/Management: United Theatres Ltd
  • 1931 Owner/Management: Howard & Wyndham
  • 1979 Alteration: converted to bingo
    - Architect
  • 1984 Alteration: returned to theatre use
    Smith & Way
    - Architect
  • 1984 Design/Construction:
    Frank James & Associates
    - Consultant
    quantity surveyors
    Broadhurst & Goodwin
    - Consultant
    structural engineers
    William Matthews Ltd
    - Consultant
    mechanical services
    Clare Ferraby
    - Consultant
    interior design
  • 1984 Owner/Management: Palace & Opera House Trust
  • 1984 - 1979 Use: continuing
  • 1990 Owner/Management: Apollo Leisure Group Plc
  • 2009 Owner/Management: Bought by Ambassador Theatre Group
  • Capacity
    1946: 1988
    1972: 1910
    1982: 2070
    1994: 1950
  • Capacity
  • Listing
Stage type
Proscenium Rake
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: Depth: 12.37m (42ft) Width SL: 11.13m SR: 12.73m
Proscenium width: 11.24m (37ft)
Height to grid: 17.45m (57ft)
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: 1946: 30 1972: 20-65 1994: 80