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The London Coliseum Theatre (also known as the Coliseum Theatre) is a West End theatre on St. Martin's Lane, in central London. The theatre opened on December 24, 1904 as the London Coliseum Theatre of Varieties and was designed by architect Frank Matcham for Sir Oswald Stoll with the ambition of being the largest and finest ‘People’s palace of entertainment’ of the age. Frank Matcham also designed the London Palladium.
With 2,359 seats The London Coliseum Theatre is the largest theatre in London. It underwent extensive renovations between 2000 and 2004 when an original staircase planned by Frank Matcham was finally put in to his specifications. The theatre changed its name from the London Coliseum to the Coliseum Theatre between 1931 and 1968. During the Seond World War, the Coliseum served as a canteen for Air Raid Patrol workers, and Winston Churchill gave a speech from the stage. After 1945 the theatre was mainly used for American musicals before becoming a cinema in 1961, remaining so for seven years. In 1968 it reopened as The London Coliseum Theatre, home of Sadler’s Wells Opera. In 1974 Sadler’s Wells became English National Opera and the Company bought the freehold of the building for £12.8 million in 1992. The London Coliseum Theatre underwent a complete and detailed restoration from 2000 which was supported by National Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, The National Lottery through Arts Council England, and a number of generous trust and individual donors.The auditorium and other public areas were returned to their original Edwardian decoration and new public spaces were created. The theatre re-opened in 2004.
The London Coliseum has the widest proscenium arch in London (55 feet wide and 34 feet high – the stage is 80 feet wide, with a throw of over 115 feet from the stage to the back of the balcony) and was one of the first theatres to have electric lighting. It was built with a revolving stage which consisted of three concentric rings and was 75 feet cross in total and cost Stoll £70,000. A range of modern features included electric lifts for patrons, a roof garden and an Information Bureau in which anyone expecting urgent telephone calls or telegrams could leave their seat numbers and be immediately informed if required.
English National Opera is the full time producing company at The London Coliseum, presenting a uniquely wide range of opera with an emphasis on theatricality, originality and quality. All ENO productions are sung in English and surtitled.
Acknowledged internationally for its award-winning work, English National Opera is a creative and vibrant home for compelling theatrical productions staged by imaginative artists from the worlds of opera, theatre, dance, film and the visual arts and performed by the leading British and international singers and conductors of the day.
Each Season ENO produces a high proportion of new productions, some in close collaboration with international partners such as the Metropolitan Opera, New York, ensuring that new work is regularly presented to international audiences. With a strong commitment to contemporary opera and an emphasis on nurturing and developing British talent, ENO continues to invest in the future and reach out to new audiences. Affordable tickets, membership schemes, learning progrmmes and innovative online content help us develop and extend audiences for opera.
ENO is the largest employer in UK opera of British talent and has close associations with many major British singing actors. A number of ENO initiatives including Opera Works, the Young Singers Programme and ENO Evolve help develop young British talent.
For a full list of current London opera, visit our Opera page.