Her Majesty's Theatre History and Timeline

The Queen's Theatre opens

The Queen's Theatre opens

1705-01-01

The first theatre on the existing site opened in 1705, with the permission of Queen Anne. The venue was managed by John Vanbrugh and William Congreve. The first performance was an Italian opera 'The Loves of Ergasto'. The venue quickly became known for producing high quality opera and was the first of its kind in the UK, let alone London. Handel worked at The Queen's in 1711, conducting his first opera 'Rinaldo', and later 'Esther' - the first oratorio to be heard in England.

A new owner takes over

A new owner takes over

1707-05-07

After a failure of a first season and out-of-control costs, Sir John Vanbrugh sells the lease to the theatre. Owen Swiny purchases the lease for 14 years. The Lord Chamberlain’s Office subsequently declares the entertainment at the venue will only be musical in nature.

Handel premieres Rinaldo

Handel premieres Rinaldo

1711-02-24

Known primarily for staging operas, George Frideric Handel has his English debut with Rinaldo. This was the first Italian opera created specifically for the English theatre.

The Queen's Theatre renamed

The Queen's Theatre renamed

1714-01-01

The Queen’s Theatre is renamed The King’s Theatre when George I is crowned. The theatre’s name changes according to the gender of the monarch.

Royal Academy of Music is founded

Royal Academy of Music is founded

1719-01-01

Under new manager John James Heidegger, the theatre undergoes an extension of the stage. The Royal Academy of Music is founded at the theatre, funded by subscriptions from wealthy patrons. It is initially founded in order to support further works by Handel.

Three new operas premiere

Three new operas premiere

1762-01-01

Johann Cristian Bach, the youngest son of JS Bach, premieres 3 new operas at the theatre.

New owners take a risk

New owners take a risk

1788-01-01

Thomas Harris and playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan acquire the lease from James Brook and remodel the theatre’s interior. Unfortunately, the costs of the renovation are not recouped from the box office and Sheridan buys Harris out of his share of the lease.

Fire!

Fire!

1789-06-07

The theatre catches fire during an evening rehearsal and burns down. It was determined that the fire was started deliberately on the roof.

Haydn conducts his own works

Haydn conducts his own works

1794-01-01

A concert room is built on the side of the main building of the theatre. It’s here that Joseph Haydn presents a series of concerts. He conducts them himself and returns to Italy a wealthy man from the earnings he accrued.

The theatre is redesigned

The theatre is redesigned

1816-01-01

Acclaimed architect John Nash and George Repton redesign the theatre’s exterior. They also remodel the auditorium, so it now seats 2,500 people. A shopping arcade is added to the rear of the theatre.

Several Rossini operas premiere

Several Rossini operas premiere

1818-01-01

1818-1820: UK premieres of Gioachino Rossini's operas Il barbiere di Siviglia, Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra, L'italiana in Algeri, La Cenerentola and Tancredi take place. The theatre is known as the Italian Opera House, Haymarket during this time.

New theatre manager stages more Rossini

New theatre manager stages more Rossini

1821-01-01

Bookseller John Ebers takes over the theatre’s management and stages the premieres of 7 more Rossini operas: La gazza ladra, Il turco in Italia, Mosè in Egitto, Otello, La donna del lago, Matilde di Shabran and Ricciardo e Zoraide.

Pierre François Laporte runs the theatre

Pierre François Laporte runs the theatre

1828-01-01

Pierre François Laporte takes over theatre management, and runs the venue until his death. He premieres operas by Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti.

The opening of The King's Theatre

The opening of The King's Theatre

1837-01-01

The name of the building was changed in 1714 after the accession of King George I. The building was destroyed by a fire in 1789, and reopened in 1791 as The King's Theatre. Opera continued to be produced to a very high level, and British premieres of Mozart operas such as 'Cosi Fan Tutti' and 'The Magic Flute' were shown here. Italian opera featured heavily, with the premieres of 'Don Giovanni' in 1817 and 'The Barber of Seville' in 1818

The venue becomes the Her Majesty's Theatre

The venue becomes the Her Majesty's Theatre

1791-01-01

Following the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, the theatre changed its name to 'Her Majesty's Theatre, Italian Opera House'. Stars of the Opera world flocked to the venue to perform for Queen Victoria, and a number of British premieres continued, including Beethoven's 'Fidelio'.

Bejamin Lumley secedes Laporte

Bejamin Lumley secedes Laporte

1842-01-01

Benjamin Lumley becomes the new theatre manager after Laporte’s death. He is known for premiering 3 Verdi operas, but there are regular disputes between theatre management and the performers, who feel they are being mistreated.

Jenny Lind performs

Jenny Lind performs

1847-04-05

Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind makes her English debut at the theatre. She is known as The Swedish Nightingale. She went on to perform several seasons here.

A second fire destroys the theatre

A second fire destroys the theatre

1867-12-06

A fire destroys the theatre, now under the management of James Henry Mapleson. Many of the surrounding buildings are also damaged, and only the 4 walls of the theatre remained afterwards.

A religious group purchases the theatre

A religious group purchases the theatre

1874-01-01

A revivalist Christian group purchases the theatre. They completely strip the theatre of all of its fixtures and fittings, leaving it gutted. It is a far cry from the theatre's opulent interior of the present day.

The theatre rebuilt

The theatre rebuilt

1868-01-01

A third theatre is built on the site, designed by John Nash’s successor Charles Lee. The design the building to be more fire-resistant, made out of bricks and cement with iron roof supports. However, a dispute over the management means the theatre remains closed until 1874.

James Henry Mapleson returns

James Henry Mapleson returns

1877-01-01

James Henry Mapleson returns to manage the theatre. He premieres Bizet’s Carmen the following year.

Wagner's Ring Cycle premieres

Wagner's Ring Cycle premieres

1882-01-01

The venue hosts the London premiere of Wagner’s The Ring Cycle. It is conducted by Anton Seidl and directed by Angelo Neumann.

The building is demolished and rebuilt

The building is demolished and rebuilt

1892-01-01

The now-outdated theatre is ordered to be demolished and rebuilt. Charles J Phipps is appointed designer and actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree funds the new building.

The new Her Majesty's Theatre opens

The new Her Majesty's Theatre opens

1897-01-01

The venue was demolished in 1892, before actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree acquired the site and began to build his new venue. The Her Majesty's Theatre opened in 1897, beginning with a performance of Gilbert Parker's 'Seats of the Mighty'. Tree looked after the venue for 18 years, establishing the venue as one of London's primary playhouses. He mounted 46 productions of his own, including Shakespeare plays, adaptations of novels and smaller works.

The venue becomes His Majesty's with the accession of King Edward VII

The venue becomes His Majesty's with the accession of King Edward VII

1901-01-01

The theatre was renamed His Majesty's Theatre after Queen Victoria died. It was home to the Coronation Gala for King George V in 1911

RADA is founded

RADA is founded

1904-01-01

Theatre manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree founds The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) at the theatre, though the drama school transfers to a building in Bloomsbury the following year.

The Tinker's Wedding opens

The Tinker's Wedding opens

1909-11-11

J M Synge premieres his newest play, The Tinker’s Wedding. Synge did not live long enough to see this opening. The Irish comedy is set in the Irish countryside and tells the story of Sarah Casey tricking her reluctant beau into marrying her.

The original production of Bernard Shaw's 'Pygmalion' opens

The original production of Bernard Shaw's 'Pygmalion' opens

1921-01-01

George Bernard Shaw's most prolific play 'Pygmailon' opens at the theatre starring Mrs Patrick Campell, alongside Tree as Henry Higgins. Shaw directed the production himself, which often resulted in enraged rehearsals. The production ran for 113 performances, and it continues to be revived and performed all over the world. The play was later adapted into the musical 'My Fair Lady' which opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1958.

Noel Coward's Musical 'Bitter Sweet' opens

Noel Coward's Musical 'Bitter Sweet' opens

1929-01-01

Noel Coward's 'Bitter Sweet' opened at the theatre in 1929 and went on to run for 967 performances. The three act operetta starred Peggy Wood as Sarah, with Georges Metaxa as Carl and is set in Austria-Hungary as a young woman elopes with her music teacher. The production was one of the most popular at the Her Majesty's Theatre, and went on to enjoy a run on Broadway as well as multiple revivals and even a screen version. Although it was quite different to any of Coward's plays, it contains some of his most memorable music.

J.B Priestley's 'The Good Companions' opens

J.B Priestley's 'The Good Companions' opens

1931-05-14

Following the success of his 1929 novel, J.B Priestley worked alongside Edward Knoblock to create a stage adaptation of this picaresque story. The production starred Edward Chapman, Edith Sharpe and John Gielgud in the lead roles and enjoyed a successful nine month run. The show returned to the Her Majesty's Theatre in 1974 in a musical adaptation, which starred John Mills and Judi Dench.

The Lerner and Lowe musical 'Brigadoon' has its British premiere

The Lerner and Lowe musical 'Brigadoon' has its British premiere

1949-04-14

Following the success of the Broadway production, 'Brigadoon' opened at the Her Majesty's Theatre where it ran for 685 performances. Set in a mythical Scottish village, the musical starred Philip Hanna as Tommy, Patricia Hughes as Fiona, James Jamieson as Harry, and Noele Gordon as Meg. The songs become popular hits, including 'Heather on the Hill', and 'Almost Like Being in Love'. The show featured spectacular choreography by Agnes de Mille, and was representative of the contemporary trend for book musicals such as 'Oklahoma!' transferring to the West End from New York.

Bye Bye Birdie opens

Bye Bye Birdie opens

1951-06-15

The Broadway production of 'Bye Bye Birdie' transferred to the Her Majesty's Theatre where it played for 268 performances. The Charles Strouse musical is a satire on American society set in 1958. The score featured songs such as 'The Telephone Hour' and 'Put on a Happy Face'. The original London cast featured Peter Marshall as Albert, Chita Rivera as Rosie, Angela Baddeley as Mae and Marty Wilde as Conrad Birdie.

Fiddler on the Roof opens

Fiddler on the Roof opens

1957-02-16

Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's 'Fiddler on the Roof' was the next Broadway musical to open at the Her Majesty's Theatre where it played for 2,030 performances. The London production starred Chaim Topol as Tevye, who went on to reprise the role in the 1971 film adaptation. He was joined by Miriam Karlin as Golde. The original production was directed by Hal Prince and featured choreography by Jerome Robbins, and remains one of the most iconic musical productions of the 20th century. The musical has since been revived in London on numerous occasions.

West Side Story opens

West Side Story opens

1958-12-12

The European premiere of Leonard Bernstein's most famous musical 'West Side Story' was actually in Manchester, but the production transferred to the Her Majesty's Theatre London. Featuring choreography by Jerome Robbins, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Bernstein, this dance based musical went on to be one of the world's most popular musicals on both screen and stage. The original London production played for 1,039 performances and starred George Chakiris as Riff, Marlys Watters as Maria, Don McKay as Tony, and Chita Rivera as Anita.

Company opens

Company opens

1972-01-18

Stephen Sondheim's concept musical 'Company' had its London premiere at the Her Majesty's Theatre. The show ran for 344 performances and featured Larry Kert, Elaine Stritch, Joy Franz, and Donna McKechnie. The original production was directed by Hal Prince and received good notices on both sides of the Atlantic. It was one of the more commercially successful Sondheim shows of the era, and George Furth's book was particularly praised.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'The Phantom of the Opera' opens

Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'The Phantom of the Opera' opens

1986-10-09

The era of 'mega-musicals' had begun, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'The Phantom of the Opera' opened at the Her Majesty's Theatre in 1986, produced by Cameron Mackintosh. The original production starred Michael Crawford as The Phantom, and Lloyd Webber's then wife Sarah Brightman as Christine Daae. The production was lavish and featured a large cast and orchestra, with many special effects and stage tricks. It won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical, and has since mounted productions all over the world. The show has been seen by over 130million people, and has a worldwide box office gross of $5.6billion, making it the most financially successful entertainment event to date. The show continues to run at the Her Majesty's Theatre to packed houses every night.

The Phantom of the Opera breaks records

The Phantom of the Opera breaks records

1999-12-13

The Phantom of the Opera is named the most successful show of the century. Since opening in London in 1986, the show has been staged in 91 cities, 15 countries and sold 25 million copies of its soundtrack. Worldwide box office sales are nearly £2 billion, exceeding those of any stage show or film in history.

The Her Majesty's Theatre becomes a Really Useful Theatre

The Her Majesty's Theatre becomes a Really Useful Theatre

2000-01-01

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group bought the theatre outright in 2000. They have maintained the building, including renovating the front of house and bathroom facilities to suit a modern day audience. The sound equipment used in the show has also been updated to keep 'The Phantom of the Opera' up to date.

The Phantom of the Opera turns 20

The Phantom of the Opera turns 20

2006-10-09

The Phantom of the Opera celebrates its 20th anniversary. First opening on 9 October 1986, the show has garnered worldwide acclaim and success and is still one of the West End’s most popular productions.

Ramin Karimloo joins cast

Ramin Karimloo joins cast

2007-09-10

The youngest Phantom in the show’s history joins The Phantom of the Opera. 28-year-old Ramin Karimloo is already an accomplished stage performer, having played Enjolras in Les Miserables amongst other roles.

Major cast changes

Major cast changes

2008-09-08

There are some major cast changes in The Phantom of the Opera. Ramin Karimloo will remain as the Phantom, but joining him are Gina Beck (Christine), Simon Bailey (Raoul), Barry James (Monsieur Firmin), Gareth Snook (Monsieur Andre), Kate Radmilovic (Carlotta), Rohan Tickell (Piangi), Tori Johns (Meg Giry).

10,000th performance

10,000th performance

2010-10-09

The Phantom of the Opera celebrates its 10,000 performance in the West End at the matinee. Andrew Lloyd Webber and original Phantom Michael Crawford joined the current company on stage to mark the occasion.

Phantom nominated for an Olivier

Phantom nominated for an Olivier

2010-02-08

The Phantom of the Opera is nominated for an Audience Award at the Olivier Awards. This is a new award category that gives audiences the opportunity to vote for their favourite, long-running West End show.

A special song for the Royal Variety Performance

A special song for the Royal Variety Performance

2011-12-13

To celebrate The Phantom of the Opera’s 25 anniversary, a special version of the title song of the show is performed on the Royal Variety Performance. Featuring 4 separate Phantoms, Simon Bowman, Earl Carpenter, Ramin Karimloo and John Owen-Jones, and Nicole Scherzinger has Christine, this is a unique arrangement by Andrew Lloyd Webber for the event.

Phantom wins BroadwayWorld Awards

Phantom wins BroadwayWorld Awards

2011-12-05

Phantom of the Opera wins 2 BroadwayWorld UK awards in its 25th anniversary year! The show walked away with Best Long Running West End Show and the gala event at Royal Albert Hall won Best Theatrical Event of the Year. The awards are the largest audience-driven awards of their kind. This year, tens of thousands of people with 5,000 votes cast on the final day alone.

The Phantom of the Opera celebrates 25th anniversary

The Phantom of the Opera celebrates 25th anniversary

2011-10-02

To celebrate 25 years of The Phantom of the Opera running in the West End, three special performances were filmed at the Royal Albert Hall. The last one was broadcast around the world. Tickets for the shows at the Royal Albert Hall sold out in just 5 hours, which affirmed the demand for the show despite having already been seen by millions of people.

BBC Radio 2 Award nomination

BBC Radio 2 Award nomination

2013-03-26

The Phantom of the Opera is nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Audience Award at the 2013 Olivier Awards. Also nominated are Matilda the Musical, Wicked, and Billy Elliott the Musical.

Phantom is third most popular musical of all time

Phantom is third most popular musical of all time

2013-09-03

According to Jemm Three, the UK’s first 24-7 radio station of musical theatre, The Phantom of the Opera is the third most popular musical of all time! Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has a whopping 9 shows in the top 100.

Ben Forster is the new Phantom

Ben Forster is the new Phantom

2016-02-15

Ben Forster takes over the role of the Phantom from John Owen-Jones. The ITV1 winner of ‘Superstar’ is no stranger to the West End, and his performances are proving to be some the show’s most popular.

Phantom celebrates 30 years haunting the West End

Phantom celebrates 30 years haunting the West End

2016-09-26

Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic The Phantom of the Opera celebrates 30 years haunting the West End with a special Gala performance. Starring Ben Forster as Phantom and Celinde Schoenmaker as Christine, the performance featured cameos from past Phantoms.

A new cast comes to The Phantom of the Opera

A new cast comes to The Phantom of the Opera

2017-09-04

Phantom of the Opera has a cast change! Joining existing cast members are Ben Lewis as ‘The Phantom’, Kelly Mathieson as ‘Christine Daaé’ and Jeremey Taylor as ‘Raoul’. Amy Manford is the alternate ‘Christine Daaé’. Also joining them for a September start is Matt Bateman, Jade Davies, Hannah Grace, Andrei Teodor Iliescu, Jordan Simon Pollard, Una Reynolds, Emily Smith, Rachel Spurrell and John Stacey.

Forster's run extends

Forster's run extends

2017-02-13

Ben Forster, the winner of ITV1’s ‘Superstar’, has extended his run as the Phantom until 2 September. His other stage credits include Elf the Musical and Evita, both in the West End.