R29m upgrade of Opera House gets under way

WORK SITE: Excavation work starts at Port Elizabeth's Opera House on the Whites Road side of the Donkin Reserve. Picture: JUDY DE VEGA
WORK SITE: Excavation work starts at Port Elizabeth’s Opera House on the Whites Road side of the Donkin Reserve. Picture: JUDY DE VEGA

THE multimillion-rand Opera House facelift started yesterday with the excavation of rocks outside the building which will give way for the Port Elizabeth theatre’s new extended foyer.

The Barn will also be enlarged, two lifts will be installed and there are plans for a theatre school and restaurant. The renovations are set to cost R29-million.

Richard Ferreira, speaking on behalf of Siya Zama Construction Company which is responsible for the renovations, said they expected the first phase to take 10 months and phase two a further three months.

“Nothing is going to happen to the big [wild fig] tree. We will only remove the small trees around it,” Ferreira said.

A Section 21 company, the Opera House, which is Africa’s oldest functioning theatre, went through troubled times financially in the mid- to late-1990s when a lack of sufficient funding for maintenance and operating costs threatened the venue’s future.

The proposed renovations were opposed by the DA because it was against the removal of the big tree near the Opera House where a theatre school was to be built.

Opera House general manager Monde Ngonyama said the tree would not be removed due to cost escalations.

“However, I am glad that the renovations have finally started. The shows will not be affected as the main stage will only be renovated in January. We will continue to use The Barn up until August,” he said.

The revamp was much-needed as there were concerns from board members that the building was not safety compliant and did not cater for wheelchair-bound patrons. – Yoliswa Sobuwa

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