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Friday, 30 March, 2001, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Coliseum to get 41m renovation
Image of the view from the refurbished Coliseum
A computer-generated image of the proposed view
The English National Opera has unveiled a 41m plan to restore the London Coliseum to its "former splendour".

The four-year refurbishment of London's largest theatre will be aided by nearly 24m in lottery money.

Welcoming the plan, Culture Secretary Chris Smith said it would "restore the Coliseum to its former splendour while updating facilities for the enjoyment of audiences".

The Coliseum - which was designed by architect Frank Matcham - is considered to be a flamboyant masterpiece of theatre design.

Lesley Garrett
Soprano Lesley Garrett is a long-time ENO principal
Matcham also designed the Hackney Empire, the Blackpool Grand Theatre, the arcades in Leeds and The Hippodrome building on Charing Cross Road.

This will be the first major facelift the building has had since it was built.

The original decor is to be restored along with two new bars and improved public space.

Backstage and orchestra facilities will also be improved, along with the area which houses the cheapest seats in the gallery.

And the audience will now enter the auditorium from the main entrance, with the whole theatre benefiting from a better air-conditioning system.

'People's Palace'

In the 96 years since Matcham created the Coliseum, it has had several lives; as a variety theatre, as a venue for the big American musicals of the l940s/50s and as a cinema.

More than 67,000 people came to what was called the "People's Palace of Entertainment and Art" in its opening week in 1904.

ENO's general director Nicholas Payne said the company would continue to present full seasons of opera during the work.

Next season the company will present 18 operas, including eight new productions including Prokofiev's War and Peace and Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress.

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