Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall

Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall (54)

With an over 100 year history full of the finest performances, The Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall is a complex with many stories to tell.

You see, the complex consists of two buildings with a hall linking them together, crowned with an elegant tower and a clock. With the Anderson bridge behind you, facing the complex, the building to your left is the Victoria Theatre, the Old City Hall. To your right is the Victoria Concert Hall, the former Victoria Memorial Hall.

The first stone of what was once the city hall was laid in 1855 and construction was completed in 1862.  This replaced a space where plays and operas had once been performed but had now fallen into disuse. Designed by the municipal Engineer John Bennett, it was Singapore’s first building in the Victorian style so popular in the England of this period. This building also has certain very distinctive characteristics such as its Italian influenced windows and its tall, elegant columns. Originally, the building housed a theatre on the first floor, plus offices and other rooms above, but a little more than twenty years later these offices were moved to another location in the city.

In the twentieth century construction began on another building on the right, in memory of Queen Victoria, who died in 1901. The first stone was laid in 1902 and it was officially opened on 18 October 1905 with the name Victoria Memorial Hal. It was designed by Major Alexander Murray of the Department of Public Works, assisted by the architect Bidwell of Swan & Maclaren. In addition, in 1909 the City Hall underwent renovations to give greater unity to the whole. It would be hard to guess that these two buildings were built half a century apart and by two different architects.

Moreover, the structure connecting the two buildings wasn’t built until 1906 because of delays in donations for the clock and bells.  The tower is 54 meters tall and the clock, 4 meters in diameter, large enough to be seen from afar. Finally, the new complex opened its doors the night of 11 February, 1909 with an amateur version of "The Pirates of Penzance", a popular comic opera.

Another detail that you have surely noticed is the figure of Sir Stamford Raffles. This sculpture, by Woolner, was created and installed in the Padang, but on 6 February 1919 it was decided to move it here to commemorate the centenary of the founding of Singapore. During World War II, the statue was taken to the National Museum for protection, before returning to its present day location after the end of the Japanese occupation in 1946.

In the 1950s, after the Second World War, both buildings were carefully restored by Swan & Maclaren.  The city council contributed air conditioning and new acoustics and it was reopened as the Victoria Theater on 21 November 1954. In 1979 it was the other building that underwent a major refurbishment to host the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, so it was renamed the Victoria Concert Hall. From then until the opening of the very modern Esplanade in 2002, this was the place for the best acoustics in all of Singapore.

With more than 160,000 square meters, the theatre can seat more than 900 people. Furthermore, the concert hall can accommodate 883 spectators in its nearly 140,000 square meters. A unique space that has hosted important theatre figures as well as outstanding national and international musicians.

Moreover, the complex is proud to have played an important role in the difficult moments of the Second World War, when it was used as a hospital. Even after the war, this was where the enemy’s war crimes were judged.

For that and for much more, the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall was declared a national monument on 14 February 1992.

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