Then and Now – The Port Elizabeth Opera House

The first meeting to discuss a new theatre for Port Elizabeth took place in 1890 after which a company was formed, shares sold and a site was agreed upon with the Town Council.  The building was designed by G.W. Smith and opened on 1 December 1892.  The first lessees of the building was B and F Wheeler who also presented the opening performance of JM Barrie’s “Walker, London”.  By 1916 the theatre was taken over by African Consolidated Theatres and they turned it into a cinema.  In 1961 the Opera House was offered to the Municipality to use as a civic theatre, but they refused.  Five years later, in 1966, the Cape Provincial Administration bought and renovated it.  
The Opera House was extended in 1985 and had extensive renovations and another extension added in 2015.  Today the Port Elizabeth Opera House is one of the oldest active Victorian Theatres in the world.  Said to be the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere.  
The historic information in this post was taken from Margaret Harradine’s excellent book, Port Elizabeth, A social chronicle to the end of 1945.

Leave a Reply