Our group’s last visit on Saturday afternoon was to the only theater in New Zealand to have a Royal Charter – the Royal Wanganui Opera House. This beautiful historical building first opened in 1900, and since celebrating its centenary has been restored and earthquake strengthened and now has a Category 1 listing from Heritage NZ.

Opera House internal view

The Opera House, known internationally for its acoustics and always open as a ‘venue for hire’ has hosted operas, orchestral performances, rock concerts, wool sales, international touring acts with star performers, amateur dramatics, dance recitals and was also used for cinema screenings.

Entering from the street after admiring the classical frontage, where an open balcony is supported by 4 gold columns, we were met by Shirna Matthews who told the building’s history, and gave us a guided tour.

From the 830 seated auditorium we had a great view of the entire stage, wings, and the dressing rooms behind. The sloping stage had been extended further forward allowing for a covered orchestra pit – which we also visited.

Those intrepid enough were taken up steep flights of back-of-house wooden stairs to the flies where the impressive rigging system for curtains, lights, and scenery were displayed. We now know how a person can literally be flown in and out as if by magic. Access to the top of the fly tower was forbidden, which I think was greeted with relief by most.

New annexes provide space for the box office and huge storage areas scenery and the full-sized LED screen.

Finally we were treated to drinks and delicious canapés whilst admiring the street view from the balcony.

Beverley Eriksen
Friends Member