Royal Opera House, also known as Opera House in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), is India's only surviving opera house. Situated on Charni Road, near Girgaum Chowpatti beach, the name ‘Royal’ got prefixed to ‘opera house’ as its foundation stone was laid during the British Raj in 1909, and King George V inaugurated the building in 1911 while the building was still under construction. It was completed in 1912. Additions were made to the building up to 1915. After years of neglect following its closure in 1993, restoration work started after 2008, though the exterior restoration was completed in 2011, further restoration continues.
With cinematography getting popular in the early 1930s, the opera house was modified for screening films and holding fashion shows, and held movie shows after 1935. As single-theatre cinemas took a down turn in the 1980s, the opera house too ran in loss. It was in January 1991 that the last film show was held here. There after the premises has been acquired by the erstwhile princely state of Gondal family on a 999 year lease. In 1993, the last public event: the Kathiawad fashion show was held here. The area around the theatre is also referred to as the Opera House in Mumbai.
The Opera House built in baroque design featuring a blend of European and Indian architectural style was conceived in 1908 by Maurice Bandmann, an entertainer from Kolkata and Jehangir Framji Karaka, head of a firm of coal brokers. It was built with exquisite Italian marble on a leased land close to the Kennedy and Sandhurst bridges. Although the work was completed in 1912, several additions were made until 1915. The pediment figure at the pinnacle was substituted with three cherubs. A pair of unique crystal chandeliers, called the ‘Sans Souci’, donated by the David Sassoon family, which was earlier located in the Sassoon mansion, was shifted to the foyer of the opera house.
At the main entrance, the dome is segmented into eight different parts "as a tribute to poets, dramatists, novelists, literati and people from art and culture." The interiors of the opera house as it existed in the past were provided with orchestra stalls with cosy cane chairs. 26 rows of boxes with couches were provided behind the stalls. The seating enabled a clear view of the stage to all the people seated in the stalls and in the Dress Circle. The acoustics were planned by providing the ceiling in a manner that permitted distinct audibility to audience seated in the gallery to hear every word or song from the stage. The entrance was originally designed with a frontage for carriages to drive in.
Since its inauguration in 1912, the opera house was the pride of Bombay, as the only opera house in the country. The entertainment extravaganza at this opera house was started by American magician Raymond followed by several premiers of the famous Bollywood movies. The opera house screened not only premieres of Bollywood movies but also live theatre performances by French production Pathé, Prithviraj Kapoor, and Marathi stalwarts like Bal Gandharva and Dinanath Mangeshkar. Lata Mangeshkar, the renowned play back singer of India gave her first performance at this opera house. In 1993, Fashion designer Sangita Kathiwada, a relative of Jyotinder Singh, the former Maharaja of Gondal (the owner of the place), held a fashion show at this opera house, and it was the last public event reported here.