Festival Theatre is one of the foremost venues in the city of Edinburgh. And although it's primarily used for performances of ballet and opera, it regularly plays host to touring plays, musical events and a host of other live performances.
The theater is located on Nicholson Street in the south side, close to the Old Town and the Royal Mile. It stands on the site of Dunedin Hall, which opened its door in 1830.
Although there have been numerous different buildings on the site since then, it remains the longest continuously operational performance venue in the whole city of Edinburgh.
Outside the Edinburgh Festival Theatre — Photo courtesy of Edinburgh Festival Theatre
Probably the most famous building to have existed at the site was the fabulous Empire Palace, which staged performances by famous acts such as Laurel and Hardy, David Bowie, Harry Lauder, Morecambe and Wise and Judy Garland.
A tragic fire in 1911 gave rise to the persistent rumor that the site (and now the Festival Theatre) is haunted by the ghost of illusionist Sigmund Neuberger, "The Great Lafayette," who died in the blaze.
The theater became one of the principal venues for the Edinburgh Festival when it began in 1947, but by the '60s it was being used as a bingo hall in the months between the annual festivals. Following a major renovation in 1994, it reopened its doors under the new name Edinburgh Festival Theatre.
The renovations added a spectacular glass front to the original building, but many of the neo-classical and art nouveau features of the Empire were retained. Behind the glass front, an open-plan foyer leads into the ground-floor bar and café and the ticket booth.
There are also bars in the foyer of the first floor and upper circle, the latter offering spectacular views of Arthur’s Seat.
Edinburgh Festival Theatre's auditorium — Photo courtesy of Edinburgh Festival Theatre
The auditorium is more traditional in appearance and has wonderful acoustics. The burnished orange tones of beaux arts-inspired flourishes of the paneling and soft fabrics are illuminated by intricate art nouveau chandeliers. There are an impressive 1,915 seats, as well as a suite of three function rooms.
The Edinburgh Festival Theatre is the home of Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera in Edinburgh, and it remains the premier venue for dance and opera during the festival.
The venue regularly hosts world-class dance troupes, offering both classical ballet and modern dance and street dance. Matthew Bourne’s "The Car Man," a modern ballet loosely based on Bizet’s Carmen, was a resounding success. And the energetic and flamboyant "Jump" is a perennial favorite.
The bar at Edinburgh Festival Theatre — Photo courtesy of Edinburgh Festival Theatre
In addition, the Festival Theatre is one of Edinburgh’s premier venues for modern theatre. Award-winning productions include such gems as the critically acclaimed "Everyman," a modern reworking of the 15th-century morality play, starring Bafta winner and Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor.
The Festival Theatre is also used as a cinema, and it's home to the largest digital cinema screen in Scotland. In a fitting tribute to the ghost of the Festival Theater, the first film shown on the screen during the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2010 was "The Illusionist."