Victoria arts venues to reopen in August

The facade of Victoria Theatre undergoing refurbishment

SINGAPORE - The Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall will reopen their doors to the public in August after a three-year refurbishment.

The first shows to be staged at the two buildings, which have a history dating back to 1855, will be those of the Singapore International Festival of Arts.

The two venues will be open for bookings in April for shows to be staged from October onwards.

The venues, which cost $158 million to refurbish, will be fully operational from next year. The National Arts Council (NAC) had initially estimated a project cost of $180 million, but W Architects, the main architects helming the project, managed to complete the refurbishment for a smaller sum.

The entire compound will span 13,800 sq m when complete, roughly the size of two football fields.

The previously 904-seat theatre will seat 614 people and the 883-seat concert hall will seat 673.

The number of seats was reduced to improve acoustics, said an arts council spokesman.

The revamped buildings will also contain new music, dance and theatre rehearsal rooms, as well as food and beverage outlets.

The Victorian facade has been preserved, and the clock tower and original passageway connecting the theatre and concert hall will be restored.

The theatre and concert hall will be managed and operated by The Esplanade Co, which also manages the Drama Centre Theatre and Black Box at the National Library Building, in addition to its own venues in the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay.

It will act solely as venue manager and will not curate or programme works at the theatre and concert hall.

The theatre was previously run by the arts council and the concert hall by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

The reopening of the two buildings will help performing arts groups with an expected venue crunch when the 2,000-seat Esplanade Theatre closes for renovation from May to October.

Theatre practitioner Jeremiah Choy, 50, directed the final performance at the Victoria Theatre in June 2010 before it closed for the refurbishment - the iconic Singaporean play Emily Of Emerald Hill by Stella Kon, starring Margaret Chan.

He welcomed the reopening of the theatre and concert hall, noting that mid-sized spaces that can seat between 400 and 600 people are in great demand in Singapore. He cited the Drama Centre Theatre and the School of the Arts Drama Theatre, which are popular with theatre groups here.

"From a sentimental point of view, I'm definitely happy, having performed in both venues since I was young," he added. NAC chief executive Kathy Lai said in an e-mail statement: "It's wonderful to reclaim this very special arts venue within the Civic District, and one so rich in our shared history and culture.

"Many Singaporeans, including myself, have fond memories of these venues."

Those interested in booking the venues can e-mail Ms Sophie Sham at ssophie@vtvch.com


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