valletta malta baroque

The Manoel Theatre In Valletta

  • Jan 22, 2021

...a historical gem

It’s safe to say that Malta is the ideal setting when it comes to organising period festivals. The Valletta Baroque Festival takes inspiration from the splendid Baroque architecture of Malta’s capital city. It posits itself as a champion of Baroque music and a proponent of the Baroque era in general. 

The Knights Hospitaller were vigorous patrons of the arts and emerging artists. The peninsula which later became Valletta served as the perfect blank canvas for their mission, i.e., to create the ideal 16th-century city – brimming with fortifications, bastions, curtains and cavaliers, and Baroque palaces, churches and institutions. 

The Manoel Theatre was one such project. Built in the early 18th century at the behest of the Grand Master of the time as an artistic statement, the theatre is nothing short of an architectural masterpiece. Nowadays, it serves as the perfect background for the yearly festival staple that is the Valletta Baroque Festival. 

The Manoel Theatre: A Brief History

Malta’s Manoel Theatre is one of Europe’s and the Commonwealth’s cultural and historical gems. Many consider it the islands’ most prestigious performance venue, and it’s pretty easy to understand why. 

The small, 623-seat venue dates back to 1731. Grandmaster António Manoel de Vilhena was the mastermind behind this project, as he envisioned a public theatre in the heart of Malta’s capital “for the honest recreation of the people.” 

The Rococo-style interior features an oval-shaped auditorium, a cupola-shaped, sky blue trompe-l’œil dome that is intended to mesmerise the audience, three whole tiers of wood-constructed boxes adorned with gold leaves, Viennese chandeliers and an 18th-century Carrara marble staircase.

Finally, the intimate yet impressive stage fully-immerses the audience in the surrealistic world of theatre. 

In the 19th century, the Theatre had fallen into disuse, and stood in the shadows of the more contemporary Royal Opera House, which eclipsed the former theatre due to its size, grandeur and international reputation. However, WWII served as the unfortunate twist of fate that brought the Manoel Theatre back to the forefront. Following the devastating destruction of the Royal Opera House by the Axis Forces in 1942, the Government of Malta decided to restore the Manoel Theatre to its former glory. Nowadays, the Theatre serves as an artistic hub that boasts an extensive calendar of events featuring national and international productions.  

The Valletta Baroque Festival

The Valletta Baroque Festival’s previous editions used to be lavish, cultural affairs that celebrated the city’s rich Baroque heritage. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival’s ninth edition is much smaller and humbler in scale. 

This year’s socially-distanced festival features spectacular performances by the international group of wind players La Petite Écurie, viola de gamba player Teodoro Baú, double bassist Gjorgji Cincievski, soprano and tenor duo Marvic Monreal and Luis Aguilar, KorMalta and the Valletta Baroque Ensemble, Cantar Lontano, Goldberg Ensemble, organist and harpsichordist Andrea Buccarella, Abchordis ensemble, musical polymath Marco Mencoboni, and last but not least, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit