In 1731, António Manoel de Vilhena, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, commissioned and personally funded the construction of this central building to serve as a Public Theatre. It was constructed in just ten months, costing 2,184 scudi. The Portuguese Grand Master built the theatre to keep the young knights of the Order of St John out of mischief but also to provide the general public with "honest entertainment." This motto was inscribed above the main entrance to the theatre, which still reads today: "ad honestam populi oblectationem".
Teatru Manoel is built in the traditional style – a théâtre à l'italienne. It is reputed to be the oldest national theatre in the world. Constructed in a U-shape with boxes decorated with gold leaf, the theatre style is reminiscent of the theatres designed by the Galli Bibiena family, an idea born in the late 17th and early 18th century.
The theatre presents quality artistic productions ranging from recitals, concerts, drama, musicals, opera, dance, and more; providing a principal platform for both local and international artists.
Despite numerous alterations over the years, the theatre retains many of its old architectural features, such as the chandeliers and the white Carrara marble staircase. Over the last couple of years, the theatre has been climatised, thus extending the season to 11 months. It has also undergone renovation, with new seating and parquet floors.
The theatre is listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands and is a Grade 1 listed building as noted by Malta’s Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.
Performances at Teatru Manoel
PORPORA VS HANDEL
FRIDAY 10, JANUARY
This concert will take you back to one of these magnificent evenings in London where composers Porpora and Handel battled over music, offering the most beautiful compositions of the genre ever written.
NEAPOLITAN CELLO CONCERTOS
THURSDAY 16, JANUARY
Discover some musical treasures from 18th century Naples. Two of the works performed are written by Nicola Fiorenza, composer and violinist known for his eccentric style, who played for many years in the Orchestra of the Neapolitan Royal Chapel.
GIULIO CESARE. A BAROQUE HERO
FRIDAY 24, JANUARY
The countertenor Raffaele Pé and his ensemble La Lira di Orfeo approach the figure of Gaius Julius Caesar with refined musicality and artistry demonstrating contrasting the personality traits of the great general who was capable not only of heroic acts but also of compassion, amorous exhilaration and physical and emotional fragility.
SUNDAY 12, JANUARY
A feast of instrumental colour with oboes, bassoons, trumpets, timpani, strings and continuo by the finest composers of the baroque era such as Telemann, Fasch and Vivaldi. For a small fee you can meet the artists after the concert whilst having a drink and some appetisers.
IL SOFFIO DI PARTENOPE
SUNDAY 19, JANUARY
During the 1670s a powerful school of wind instrument players began to establish itself in Naples. Il Soffio di Partenope presents a small sample of the virtuoso Neapolitan repertoire written for them. It includes, amongst others, works by Alessandro Scarlatti, Nicola Fiorenza and Aniello Santangelo.
BEL CANTO DI NAPOLI
SATURDAY 25, JANUARY
This programme promises to be like a beautiful musical firework display. The works presented were composed during the golden era of Naples with arias written for Farinelli, Cafarelli and other virtuoso castrati, as well as music describing ‘la Tempesta’ by Vivaldi, Porpora, Pergolesi, Hasse, Handel and others.
INSPIRED BY BAROQUE
TUESDAY 14, JANUARY
Baroque music has been an inspiration for great composers, such as the music of Couperin for Richard Strauss or the music by Bach for Andrea Gottardello. This concert is a beautiful example of these cross fertilizations.
DI SOSPIRI E DI TEMPESTE
SUNDAY 19, JANUARY
In Baroque aesthetics, music not only describes the world of nature, but also the intricate inner geography of the human soul. Di Sospiri e di Tempeste showcases vocal and instrumental masterpieces by Vivaldi and Händel highlighting this descriptive aspect of music