Go behind the curtain to see how Grand Opera House creates the magic

Go behind the curtain to see how Grand Opera House creates the magic
12 May 2014 @ 2.38 pm
| Entertainment

York’s Grand Opera House has been entertaining residents for more than a century – and now you can see how the magic is made on a behind-the-scenes tour.

Dating from 1868, what was York’s Corn Exchange was converted into a theatre in 1902. The first performance was the pantomime Little Red Riding Hood.

Renamed The Opera House And Empire Theatre in 1912, it was soon known simply as the Empire Theatre.

Charlie Chaplin, Gracie Fields and Laurel & Hardy all performed there. In 1958 there was more change when the theatre turned into a roller-skating venue and the stage and seats in the stalls were removed.

In 1989 the Grand Opera House was rebuilt and opened with Macbeth.

Now members of the public have the chance to explore all the nooks and crannies of this wonderful theatre.

What’s on the tour

The Grand Opera House back-stage tours begin on Tuesday (May 13). They offer a chance to hear the stories of this hidden gem, and discover the secrets behind the scenes.

The tours are led by a member of the front of house staff and a member of the technical team. Tour-goers are shown the stage, the orchestra pit, the exclusive boxes and the magic of the fly floor during the hour-long tour.

If they are lucky (or perhaps unlucky) they might even get a sighting of the theatre’s ghost…

Visitors travel from the the actor’s dressing rooms at the bottom of the theatre to the gods (aka the Grand Circle) at the top, where you can see the original hand-painted frieze.

Built in the continental style (meaning there’s no central aisle), the Grand Circle features modesty boards between the tiers of seating, meaning ladies didn’t have to worry about people peering up their dresses.


  • The tours take place on Tuesday, May 13, Wednesday, June 18 and Tuesday, July 8 and are priced at £8 for adults, £4.50 for children
  • Places are limited to 20 for each tour, to book call 0844 871 3024
  • Read more theatre stories here