Tonight, on 20 October 2016, the historic Royal Opera House (ROH) in Mumbai will reopen after extensive restoration. Under the direction of award-winning conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah the opera house has been restored to its original state when it first opened in 1912. The building has been owned by the Gondal family since the early 1950s and their commitment to its conservation has made this task possible. The LMU Global Theatre Histories project contributed to the restoration effort by providing the conservation team with rare written and visual material describing the interior of the building. Theatre historian Christopher Balme is researching the career of the theatrical impresario Maurice E. Bandmann (1872-1922) who built the ROH together with a Parsi coal merchant J.F. Karaka. While researching a term paper for a MA seminar, a student research assistant David Berger located an extremely rare publication in the Bavarian State Library, J.J. Sheppard (ed.), Territorials in India: A Souvenir of Their Historic Arrival for Military Duty in the “Land of the Rupee”. From the Royal Opera House, Bombay. Prepared in Accordance with the Instructions of the Proprietor, J. F. Karaka. (1916). This publication (World Cat lists only two extant copies), funded by the proprietor of the ROH, contains a detailed description with photographs of the interior. In a recent interview Lambah acknowledged this help.The restoration itself has been a huge job as she stated on the eve of the opening: ““More than 54,000 days of manpower, skilled craftsmanship, stone sculptors, stain glass conservators, art restorators and technical engineers have gone into recreating this piece of history. About 100 years ago the Opera House was India’s most stunning cultural venue. We hope with this restoration it would open its doors once again to some of the finest live performances in music, dance, theatre, fashion and opera.” The opening tonight is a historic event and has attracted a great deal of media attention. Balme was interviewed recently for one of India’s leading online cultural publications, scroll.in, to gain more information about Bandmann and his largely forgotten role in India’s theatre history.
The Department of History at Heidelberg University has invited Christopher Balme to speak about his new ERC project Developing Theatre as part of the department’s lecture series on Global History.
The lecture entitled Developing Theatre: Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945 will take place on Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 6pm. (Historisches Seminar, Grabengasse 3-5, Hörsaal, Heidelberg).
The new ERC project started recently at LMU Munich. For the next 5 years, an international team of researchers will be working on strategies and politics of developing theatre after the World War II. More on this new avenue of writing Global Theatre Histories will be published shortly!