About The Theatre

Our History

About Pe Opera House

The Port Elizabeth Opera House currently comprises four theatres, namely Main Stage (the original Opera House) which is 640 sitter,  Barn Theatre which is 100 (auditorium sitting) to 150 (cabaret sitting), the Arts Hub (St Mary’s Church Hall) which is 100 sitter and Mendi Arts Centre (100 sitter) based in New Brighton. The Opera House is at the corner of John Kani Road and Winston Ntshona Street, Central, Port Elizabeth.

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The PE Opera House was opened in 1892 as a result many theatre literates in South Africa honour the institution with an endearment of being The Opera House. It was proclaimed a national monument in 1980. Our venues are suitable for dramatic productions including dance and music shows. True to our colonial heritage PE Opera House is the only Victorian Theatre functional in Africa.

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A brief history of The Opera House in Port Elizabeth

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The Opera House is the longest running theatre on the continent of Africa and one of the oldest running in the Southern Hemisphere. This special piece of World History is right here in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province. Built in 1892, it preceded the railway line by two years. It took 16 more years before artificial lighting - in the form of Gas - came to The Opera House. Before that it was run with candles and limelight.

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When the theatre opened it was recognised as "The finest theatre in all the World" according to press reports. This is testament to our pride that we can still use the building today.

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This very special place – at the home of John Kani, Athol Fugard, Winston Ntshona, Nomhle Nkonyeni, Marlene Pieterse, Ian von Mermety, Thoko Ntshinga, Elizabeth Connell, Feya Faku, Zim Ngqawana, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Mzi Mahola, Lulu Gontsana, and many, many other prolific artists.

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Few people know that as part of our history this institution was built on the site where people used to be hung. Public hangings took place on this ground before the theatre was erected. So, no wonder an urban legend goes that there were many sightings of ghosts and spooks in the building. As a result it used to be believed that no one wishes to be the last person to leave at night in the past. Currently no one wants to test this. You will never know!

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In 2017 the Port Elizabeth Opera House celebrates 125 Years!

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The past 125 years were a period where the world was brought to the city. We want to use the next 125 years to take our city to the world. Telling Eastern Cape stories with equal skill and expertise close to anywhere else in the world. This we shall achieve through meaningful exchange programmes, high levels of professionalism and good governance.

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