Friday, October 14, 2005:
A superb re-birth for the Teatru Astra
Our Teatru Astra, partially damaged in a fire caused by an electric short circuit on November 8, 2003, is being born again, splendid, indeed, superb. Intensive restoration, structural and redecoration works are in full-swing to bring the theatre back to operation mode in time for the Festival Mediterranea which kicks off in a few days. The Teatru Astra belongs to the "La Stella" Philharmonic Society which is responsible for the organization of the external festivities in honour of St George.
The bond between the "La Stella" Philharmonic Society and St George's basilica is very deep. The collaboration is close, throughout the year. The basilica and its annexes are the venue for various performances of the Festival Mediterranea 2005.
The Astra theatre will once again open its doors to its discerning public after long months of extensive work to replace what was severely damaged on that tragic day. The fire destroyed around a third of the auditorium ceiling together with cinema and stage facilities and the entire electrical and sound cables and equipment, ranging from front of stage to backstage.
In recent months, volunteers and private contractors have been working tirelessly at the Astra to bring it back to its glory. Experts of all sorts, including structural engineers, architects, acoustics engineers, designers and others have all been recruited to monitor the project’s development.
Electricity and sound systems have been re-installed, backstage and front of stage facilities have been prepared and are ready to be installed; the original polysterene ceiling has been replaced with a new fire-proof material which is lending itself to a new design, echoing the new face-lift being given to the auditorium. Structural changes have also been carried out to accommodate a higher number of patrons inside the auditorium and the two tiers. Naturally, latest fire and safety measures have been taken into consideration as was the theatre’s perfect acoustics.
After late Frank Portelli’s Sixties’ designs, the newer Teatru Astra will portray modern concepts linked to the classical layout, under the Oscar-winning Peter Howi, the designer who has been commissioned to “create” the “new” Astra. New motifs for the two-tiered boxes and balcony have been prepared while a new stage curtain and other drapery are being given their final touches by a group of volunteers. Other helpers, both young and less young, are heavily assisting the management team, ably led by "La Stella" Philharmonic Society president, Mr Dolindo Cassar, and project manager Ray Bugeja, to meet its sharp deadline by end of this month.
Every effort is being done for the theatre to be completely finished in time for the inauguration of Mediterranea with all structural and decorative works ready to host this year’s fully-booked twin opera productions of “La Bohème”, starring Joseph Calleja and his wife Tatiana Lisnic – full rehearsals for which will start in the coming weeks.
The Astra Theatre is indeed rising again, it is undergoing a re-birth, a monument to those who built it way back in the 1960s and to those who are working so very hard to returning it to a glory which is not only pristine but indeed superb.
Works at the Teatru Astra