A Short History of her Majestys Theatre in London

Since 1705 with the opening of the first theatre on the site, there have been four different buildings and a variety on name changes for the theatre that is best known as “Her Majesty’s Theatre.”  Her Majesty’s Theatre is right in the middle of the London theatre district known as the West End, or Haymarket. This is London’s equivalent to New York’s Broadway theater district.

In 1705, the first theatre was built by John Vanbrugh and William Congreve on in the location  and was named “The Queen’s” with then Queen Anne’s permission.  Non-musical performances were outlawed except in two theatres with special licenses, so The Queen was soon converted to an Opera house, with “The Loves of Ergasto” as if first show.

In 1711 the composer George Handel of “Messiah” fame was employed as the house composer and conductor. Handel conducted many operas in the venue and established it as the premier opera house in London. On the accession of George the first to the throne the theatre was renamed “The King’s” in 1714. During Handel’s time as the house composer his oratorio “Esther” was first performed there in 1732.

The original building burnt down in 1789. Two years later in 1791 the new King’s Theatre opened. The venue continued show operas including the first Mozart opera, “La Clemenza De Tito”, performed in London in 1806.  From 1820 to 1820 the Paris Ballet was booked into the theatre, alternating performances with operas.

In 1837 the theatre was renamed “Her Majesty’s Theatre and Italian Opera House” in honor of the accession of Queen Victoria to the British throne. From 1837 to 1867 when the theatre was again destroyed by fire, it continued to show operas

In 1869 a new theatre was built but no performances took place in it until 1878 when the Bizet opera “Carmen” was performed. Operas as well as other types of entertainments were performed in the venue until 1890 when it closed its doors.

In 1892 the building was demolished the site vacant until 1896 when yet another theatre was built on the site. This new Her Majesty’s was a playhouse, showing non-musical performances such as Shakespeare.

In 1901 the name was changed again to His Majesty’s with the accession of Edward VII. Plays having performances in the theatre include George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” and several Noel Coward musicals.

In 1952, the name reverted again to Her Majesty’s Theatre with the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II.

From 1953 to 1985, the theatre featured performances of plays and musicals such as “Paint Your Wagon”, “The Teahouse of the August Moon” and  “West Side Story

The musical version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’sThe Phantom of the Opera” opened in 1986 and has been continually performed there since.  From 1992 to 1994 the building underwent a complete renovation without missing a performance of the musical.

Since 2004, Her Majesty’s Theatre has been wholly owned Webber’s “The Really Useful Group Limited”. To this day Her Majesty’s Theatre continues to be one of the great entertainment venues in the London West End.


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