Süreyya Opera House, also called Süreyya Cultural Center (Turkish: Süreyya Operası or Süreyya Kültür Merkezi), is an opera hall located in Kadiköy district of Istanbul, Turkey. Designed and built by the politician Süreyya İlmen Pasha, it was originally established in 1927 as the first musical theatre on the Anatolian part of Istanbul. However, due to lack of appropriate facilities and equipment in the theatre, operettas were never staged. The venue was rather used as a movie theatre until the building underwent a functional restoration and reopened as an opera house by the end of 2007.
Süreyya Pasha started the construction of the building in 1924 to meet the need of a venue for cultural and social events lacking in Kadiköy. He was impressed by the glamour of famous theatres in Europe during his visits. The aesthetic and functional influences at the architectural design of the building are reflected in the foyer, an example of Art Deco inspired from the Champs-Elysées Theatre in Paris, and in the interior, which shows styles of German architecture. Called “Süreyya Opereti” (English: Süreyya Operetta) and opened on March 6, 1927, the theater was the first of its art in the Asian part of Istanbul and the sixth in the entire city.
Since the stage of the musical theatre was not wholly completed and no artist’s rooms were provided, operetta performances did not take place at all. Only theatre plays were performed some days a week. In 1930, technical equipment needed to screen sound films was installed and henceforth the venue was renamed “Süreyya Sineması” (English: Süreyya Cinema). Hikmet Nazım, father of the renowned poet Nazım Hikmet, was appointed the movie theatre’s first manager.
The ballroom at the second floor served for many years as a wedding hall. It hosted the theater group “Kadiköy Sahnesi” (Kadiköy Stage) five years long from 1959 on. Later, the space was used as an apparel workshop.
Süreyya İlmen donated the theatre in 1950 to “Darüşşafaka Cemiyeti”, a charitable organization for the the advancement of education of orphan children in poverty, with the condition to receive the revenues during his or his wife’s lifetime. He died in 1955 and his wife Adalet İlmen in 1966. The cinema, taken over by the charity society, was then run first by the daughter and then by the grandsons of Süreyya İlmen.
The audience hall of Süreyya Cinema was renovated in 1996, and the technical equipments were modernized with state of the art in 2003. Also the exterior of the building underwent a reconditioning in accordance with the original. However, all these efforts and the investments made for modernization did not bring the expected result to attract audience.
By the beginning of 2006, Kadiköy Municipality under Mayor Selami Öztürk launched a redevelopment project after leasing the building in August 2005 from Darüşşafaka Cemiyeti for a term of 40 years. The restoration included the frescos at the ceiling and on the walls, and the sculptures on the facade. The construction works lasted almost two years and the cost amounted to around 14 million YTL (approx. $9m).
Süreyya Opera House reopened on December 14, 2007 performing the oratorio Yunus Emre (Opus 26) by Ahmet Adnan Saygun. Thus, Süreyya Pasha’s dream of an opera house came true after 80 years.
The theatre stage has dimensions of 14 m width, 10 m depth and 4.90 m height with an orchestra pit added newly. There are 14 dressing rooms built without changing the architecture of the building. The audience capacity of the opera house is 570 seats. The ballroom on the second floor can accommodate 500 guests.
The opera house is home to Istanbul State Opera and Ballet. Opera and ballet performances are staged three days a week at the venue. The house hosts also events like arts exhibitions and festivities like the Republic Day Ball.
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