Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House rises prominently at a bustling intersection in Mumbai. Maurice E. Bandmann, a renowned entertainer from Calcutta, and Jehangir Framji Karaka, head of a firm of coal brokers, drew up the Baroque style designs for the theater. Completed in 1915, the structure hosted operas and live performances until converted into a cinema in 1935. Today it is the only remaining opera house in India. The ornate façade includes elongated pilasters, Italianate balustrades, and a sculpted frieze across the pediment. The dramatic décor continues in the interior with Minton tile flooring, marble statues, crystal chandeliers, and a gold ceiling. Abandoned over twenty years ago, the building has deteriorated over time yet eluded demolition.
This lavish baroque façade, gilded interiors, and red carpets once welcomed Mumbai’s theater, opera, and film elite. Now, only a generation later, there is little awareness of its history and significance; it is seemingly a faded jewel. Continuing neglect will destine the building for ruin, but the current owner, His Highness the Maharaja of Gondal, would like to prevent this from happening. Conservation and redevelopment efforts are needed to preserve the Royal Opera House and revive its legacy as an important cultural venue for the people of India.
Since the Watch
In January 2013, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee approved the private owner’s proposal for the restoration of the Opera House. Structural repairs have now been completed and interior restoration is currently ongoing.November 2014