Opera House in Cairo
In1869 Khedive Ismail gave instructions to build an Opera House on the occasion of the inauguration of the Suez Canal. It was called Khedivial (Royal) Opera House.
The Khedive used this occasion to lay the foundation of an eloquent and durable symbol of the art of acting. This was the Khedive Opera House, which was constructed in only six months to the design of two Italian architects, Avoscani and Rossi. Outstanding specialists with wide experience in theater
construction were brought to Egypt to carry out the work.
Before the building was complete, the Khedive started to prepare a great performance for his project
that should reflect glimpses of Ancient Egyptian history. He selected Mariette Pasha to prepare a story about the Egyptian history that could form the nucleus of the poem play. Mariette Pasha commissioned the Italian poem Gialanzoni to write the libretto, and the musician Verdi was commissioned by the Khedive to compose the music.
The result was the famous opera, Aida, with its patriotic subject and passionate song and superb music, a masterpiece from the hands of these three geniuses. However,Aida had not been ready by the inauguration of the Opera House. Therefore, another masterpiece by Verdi; Rigoletto was performed on the occasion. Opera Aida itself was performed two years later. The Opera House was the first in Africa, where famous world Opera and symphonic masterpieces were performed.
In the early morning of October 28th 1971, the great Royal Opera House was tragically burned down. Nothing was left except two statues made by the Egyptian artist Mohamed Hassan (1892-1961).
The (new) opera house was inaugurated on 10 October 1988. The funds for the complex were a gift from the nation of Japan to Egypt as a result of President Hosni Mubarak's visit to Japan in April 1983. Construction began in May 1985 and lasted for three years.
In October 1988, President Mubarak and Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, the younger brother of the Japanese Emperor, inaugurated the National Cultural Centre Cairo Opera House. It was the first time for Japan to stage a Kabuki show, a traditional popular drama with singing and dancing, in Africa or the Arab World.
In recognition of the Cairo Opera House, the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra chose it as a venue for their first performance in the Middle East and Africa in January 2007. The Arabic Oud House was created in its premises before moving to a building in the old town.