Pjazza Teatru Rjal unveils springtime programme

Incorporating visual arts, music, dance and opera, Pjazza Teatru Rjal (Old Opera House) launches its springtime programme

Ira Losco. Photo by Shane P. Watts
Ira Losco. Photo by Shane P. Watts

From cutting edge art installations to a collaborative dance premier, from popular concerts to the high drama of opera and from jazz and gospel music to socially-inspired projects, Pjazza Teatru Rjal (PTR) promises a “vibrant and eclectic” calendar of events this spring.

Upcoming highlights include an Easter Sunday Jazz and Gospel concert by Rino Cirinnà and Animae Gospel Choir this Sunday at 8pm. Entrance to this event is free. A concert by the Malta Youth Orchestra will also be held on 25 April at 8pm.

In May, Pjazza Teatru Rjal will host the World Show on 3 May followed a piano virtuoso concert by world-famous Russian pianist Yuri Rozum to be staged on 4 May. Borderless/Bla Konfini, a collaborative dance premier by Mavin Khoo as part of the Fondazzjoni Ċelebrazzjonijiet Nazzjonali, will follow on 10-11 May. Micronation Series, a Malta Design Week Satellite Project by Norbert Francis Attard will run between 17-24 May while Talent Unmasked: A Night of Creation, a performance by Aġenzija Sapport will be held on 23 May. On 30 May the theatre is expected to play to a full house for an Evening with Ira Losco & Friends. May will close off with a concert by the Royal Marines Association on 31 May.

June will open on a high note, with the opera La Traviata being held between 7 and 8 June. Kiss the Sky, a site-specific sculpture by Vince Briffa, will run between 4 June and 16 July, while the Malta Police Band will hold a concert on 28 June. Pjazza Teatru Rjal is also one of the two main venues for the staging of this year’s edition of the Malta Arts Festival.

“We are offering our audience a panorama of art, music, drama, ballet and all kinds of art performances in the hope that Pjazza Teatru Rjal will once again become a much visited and admired meeting place for all social classes,” said Pjazza Teatru Rjal chair Charles ‘is-City’ Gatt at the launch. Also present were PTR general manager Jason Masini, Malta Council for Culture and the Arts chairman Albert Marshall and Culture Minister Owen Bonnici.   

Beside them, a chandelier was suspended on one of the plinths of the arts space – an installation by Pierre Portelli which is set to catch the attention of the public walking through City Gate, turning random passersby into an audience. The installation has just opened and will run until the last week of May.

Situated at the entrance of the capital city Valletta, a UNESCO world heritage site, Pjazza Teatru Rjal has always been much more than the stones from which it is made. With its layers of history and memory, it is also a monument, a shrine – and, now, a vibrant creative space. Flanked by St Catherine’s Church and the Church of Our Lady of Victories, its underground spaces and passages run beneath the capital, a part of the city’s cultural, artistic and social fabric.

Massive steel structures and wooden flooring are interlinked with huge stone foundations which are still visible, exposed during the restoration works. Stone walls grow out of hewn rock and high glass windows shed light on old archways. Tangible and intangible, present and past, mix palpably in these spaces.

Originally built by Edward Middleton Barry in 1866, in 1873 its interior was extensively damaged by a fire and was restored by 1877. In 1942 the theatre received a direct hit through aerial bombing, with loss of life. As the years passed, controversy raged on its rebuilding; meanwhile the ruins lay idle, a wartime scar in a changing city.

Recently restored by Italian architect Renzo Piano, it is now the best open-air theatre in Malta and offers important backstage facilities like a stage manager’s desk, changing rooms and showers. Fully accessible for disabled people, both actors and audience, it also boasts a state-of-the-art audio system. Initially dubbed “the roofless theatre”, it has recently come into its own as Pjazza Teatru Rjal, a vibrant artistic and creative centre which – like art, like memory – is set to inhabit a cultural and social dimension much larger than its physical space.

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