1818: The laying of the first stone of Liège's seventh theatre, in the presence of the celebrated actress Mademoiselle Mars. The theatre was inaugurated two years later, on 4 November 1820, with Zémire and Azor de Grétry. The Théâtre Royal was built using materials from the numerous churches destroyed during the 1789 revolution.
1860: The Local Council approved the conversion project: the building was to be extended. Also at this time the auditorium décor was changed: boxes were installed along with seats on the balconies (before that, audiences would watch shows standing). The circle was expanded and the auditorium capacity then increased to 1554 seats compared with 1088 beforehand.
1887: Electric lighting was installed.
1903: The Berchmans brothers, Emile and Oscar, tackled the decoration of the auditorium. Emile painted the canvas on the ceiling and Oscar, the sculptor, made the chandelier.
1930: The same Oscar Berchmans sculpted a pediment, which was added to the façade.
Between 1959 and 1976: More great transformations: the floor was tilted and the ground floor boxes removed. A lighting console, four moveable bridges, new seats, glass doors, wall-to-wall, four elevators and air conditioning were installed... After the final conversion of the auditorium in 1997, the number of seats amounted to1033.
1999: Certain sections of the Théâtre were listed.
From 2009 to 2012: The building underwent a new transformation accompanied by full restoration both inside and out. As a result its magnificent Italian-style auditorium (capacity 1041 seats) rediscovered its former glory and the stage machinery was perfectly adapted to modern techniques, making the theatre one of the most modern in the world. The building also saw an enlargement – upwards – and was equipped with a multifunction room to accommodate both smaller shows and rehearsals or even meetings, conferences, training events, and more.
Since its creation in 1967, one of the great strengths of the Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège is its desire to operate as an independent entity.
For this reason, the theatre set up its own set-building and costume-making shops in the 70s. At the time, the buildings housing the different trades were scattered across the city. These shops were highly productive and, over the course of the years, achieved a high standard of work which the set-builders and stage designers were proud to maintain.
During the 96/97 season, when the colossal sets and costumes for La Traviata were being realised, new requirements made themselves felt. If the shops wanted to keep pace with their growing reputation, a solution to the lack of space and functionality of the existing premises needed to be found fast.
The Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège therefore decided to centralise its production departments on one site, in Ans, in June 2002. This new architectural ensemble extends across an area of 2660m² and thus groups the shops on one sole site: set-building (carpentry, ironwork, painting, decoration and accessories), costumes (tailoring, shoemaking, costume decoration) and make-up/wigs.
Thanks to this grouping, the Opéra Royal de Wallonie strengthened its position in the contemporary opera world and its ability to produce and co-produce high quality shows on a large scale.
Until 2003, the Orchestra rehearsed in the Théâtre Royal basement, an inconvenient and tight space.
In 2002, the transfer of the stage-building shops to their new premises in Ans freed up the buildings in rue des Tawes in Liège. The former set-building hall provided an ideal space on account of its capacity and its asymmetry (non-parallel walls, roof with many overhangs), which was appealing for acoustic reasons.
An acoustic study was commissioned and showed that the project was feasible. Following an orchestra rehearsal in order to "test" the hall, the Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège decided to set up a 240 m² rehearsal room there. The aim was to realise works so that the musicians could rehearse there from 2003 onwards.
Thus, since the 2003/2004 season, all orchestra rehearsals have been taking place in this space, which can accommodate almost one hundred and twenty musicians. While these premises are primarily reserved for music, they can also be transformed into a production studio, if necessary.