The Gallini Family Tree

Kings Theatre - now Her Majesty's Haymarket



The current theatre is actually the 4th theatre to occupy this site: The first, called The Queen's Theatre, was built by Sir John Vanbrugh and opened on 9 April 1705 - when theatre changed it's name to The Kings Theatre in 1714 when King George I ascended the throne. Between 1758 and 1766 Sir John Gallini performed and served as director of dances at the Kings Theatre, Haymarket (the opera house), except for an interval at Covent Garden in late 1763 and 1764. In the spring of 1778 Sir John Gallini attempted to buy the opera at the King's Theatre, Haymarket. Xenophobia against him coalesced into a bidding war won by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Thomas Harris, who paid the outlandish price of 22,000 for the enterprise (all of it borrowed). Unfamiliar with opera, they began losing large sums; meanwhile, Gallini embarked on an aggressive campaign to force them out. After seven years of transfers of authority, forced declarations of bankruptcy, feuding trustees, and sheriff's sales, he achieved his wish, though the conditions were far from ideal. He served as trustee for William Taylor, who loathed him, harassed him, and sued him year after year, and he had to operate under a budget cap of 18,000 enforced by the court of chancery. This theatre was associated with opera from the early 1700's until 1789 when the theatre was destroyed by fire. The second theatre was designed by designed by Michael Novosielski and opened in March 1791. This theatre was again associated with opera, aswell as ballet. It was here that some of Mozart's opera where first presented in London - La Clemenza de Tito in 1806, Cosi fan Tutti in 1811 and Don Giovanni in 1816. Between 1816 and 1818 alterations were made to the auditorium and facades by John Nash and George Renton who also added the Royal Opera Arcade which runs along the rear of the theatre and still stands today. In 1837 the name of the theatre was changed to Her Majesty's Theatre, Italian Opera House when Queen Victoria ascended to the throne. The 'Italian Opera House' part of the name was subsquently dropped in 1847. Then, in December 1867, the theatre was once again destroyed by fire. The theatre was then rebuilt in 1869, this time designed by Charles Lee, although the theatre remained dark until 1875 when once again opera was mostly presented here. In 1892 the theatre was demolished, leaving just the Royal Opera Arcade. The current, and fourth, theatre on this site was designed by C J Phipps and opened 28 April 1897. Now mostly plays were presented here, with just the occasional opera. Then in 1916 Chu Chin Chow started a record breaking run of 2,238 performances. In 1929 Noel Coward's Bitter Sweet was produced here and enjoyed a run of 697 performances. After the Second World War the theatre mostly presented musicals which included Brigadoon in 1949, Paint Your Wagon in 1953, West Side Story in 1958 and Fiddler On The Roof in 1967 which had a run of 2,030 performances. The current production, the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Charles Hart musical Phantom of the Opera opened here on 9 October 1986. Renovations took place of the dome and exterior in 1992, and of the interior in 1994.