During the early 1900s, the city of Mumbai witnessed an unprecedented peak in social, artistic, and cultural activity. At the center of this movement was the Royal Opera House, Mumbai, India’s ‘cultural crown jewel’ and only surviving opera house. Built in 1911, the opera house incorporates a blend of European and Indian architectural design elements. The shape of the ceiling was expertly designed to enable audience members to hear every word or song with distinct clarity, whether they were perched in state boxes or listening from the gallery. During its heyday, dedicated patrons of the arts came from near and far to enjoy operas at the landmark venue.
With the rising popularity of movies in the 1930’s, the venue was converted into a cinema hall in order to keep up with the times. However, audiences for single-screen cinemas decreased as the years moved on, and the Opera House’s clientele continued to dwindle. Then in the 1980’s, home video players too gained popularity, and after the arrival of cable television in the 1990s, Mumbai’s cinema houses started closing down. The opera house hosted its final performance in 1993, before closing its doors and falling into disrepair.
Restoration work began in 2008, after years of neglect following its closure. In 2012, the World Monuments Fund included the opera house on the global list of endangered architectural sites in order to raise awareness of its historical significance and support preservation efforts.
After six years of renovations, HARMAN Professional Solutions was tasked with outfitting the Royal Opera House with a customized audio system that wouldn’t require any alterations to the existing structure.
Due to its status as a heritage building, HARMAN employed the use of the latest acoustic technologies to overcome certain structural challenges and preserve the architectural integrity while delivering quality sound. When HARMAN engineers realized the roof would not support the weight of JBL VerTec line array speakers, cantilever beams were installed on the walls to support the audio system. In addition to the line array system, the opera house also features JBL AE series speakers, Soundcraft Si Performer mixers, and BSS BLU-806 digital signal processors.
“HARMAN left no stone unturned to ensure we have the best possible sound at the Royal Opera House. Audiences have really appreciated the sound, and we are very happy we chose to work with the best,” stated Ashish Doshi, Honorable Director of the Royal Opera House.
Today, the venue has been restored to its former glory and is a popular tourist destination, thanks to a regular rotation of talk shows, stand-up comedy, art, and theater performances by notable Indian artists and personalities over the years including Bal Gandharva, Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor and Lata Mangeshkar. HARMAN continues to collaborate with the Royal Opera House, and recently installed a state-of-the-art audio solution in the opera house’s new jazz bar, The Quarter.