The Theatre was built in 1731 by António Manoel de Vilhena, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta. He commissioned and personally funded the construction of this central building to keep the young knights of the Order of St. John out of mischief but also to provide the general public with “honest entertainment”. This motto, “ad honestam populi oblectationem” is inscribed above the main entrance to the theatre. The first ever performance was Scipione Maffei’s La Merope on 19th January 1732.
Teatru Manoel was originally known as Teatro Pubblico. Under British rule it became the Theatre Royal, a title it lost in 1866 to its new rival, the much larger Royal Opera House, which was heavily damaged in World War II.
As Malta’s national theatre, the Manoel, as it is affectionately referred to by locals, is one of the main contributors to the development of the local cultural scene. Grandmaster António Manoel de Vilhena’s original objective for the Theatre has developed significantly from just providing honest entertainment to the public.
Today, the Manoel’s mission is to entertain, inform and educate, thereby enriching the cultural life of the audience as well as to provide a platform for artists to excel in their talents. It is committed to the presentation of quality artistic productions, to the creation of new audiences for music and drama genres, and to provide a principal platform for local and international artists.