Queen Elizabeth Theatre | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Queen Elizabeth Theatre. 2,575-seat theatre, home of the Vancouver Opera, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (1960-77), and Ballet British Columbia, and administered by the City of Vancouver.

Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Queen Elizabeth Theatre. 2,575-seat theatre, home of the Vancouver Opera, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (1960-77), and Ballet British Columbia, and administered by the City of Vancouver. Initially a 2,820-seat opera and ballet hall, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre was designed by the Montreal firm Affleck, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Desbarats, Michaud and Sise and was opened officially 15 Jul 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II, who on that occasion gave her name to the theatre. The opening concert was conducted by Sir Ernest MacMillan and Nicholas Goldschmidt, and Betty-Jean Hagen and Lois Marshall were the soloists. The first actual use of the hall - 11 July - was for a Vancouver International Festival concert by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

Theatre Specifications

The stage of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is 18.3 m deep and 35.7 m wide, and the proscenium is 10.5 m high and 20.4 m wide. For financial reasons the concert hall's ceiling was built 3 m lower than designed, with a consequent reduction of acoustic vitality. Upgrades to the theatre's acoustics, including a raised ceiling, were completed in 2009. The adjacent 668-seat Vancouver Playhouse (first named the Queen Elizabeth Playhouse) opened 1 Feb 1961, and became the home of the Playhouse Theatre Company and also the venue for many recitals and chamber concerts, including the long-standing series offered by the Friends of Chamber Music and the Vancouver Recital Society.


As a venue for a wide variety of presentations - concerts, recitals, opera, ballet, musicals, etc - the QE, as it is known popularly, was Vancouver's main centre for the performing arts until 1977, when the remodelled Orpheum Theatre began to share this function. Among the famous artists and groups who appeared at the QE in the first season were the Obernkirchen Children's Choir, the Moiseyev Dance Company, George London, Sammy Davis Jr, and the actor Vincent Price. Subsequent seasons saw performances by the New York City Ballet in its Canadian debut (1961), the Stratford Festival's Gilbert & Sullivan Company (1962), The Best ofSpring Thaw (1963), the Royal Ballet (1965, 1986), the Bolshoi Ballet (1966), Ella Fitzgerald, with Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass (1977, 1978), the Joffrey Ballet (1977), Gordon Lightfoot (1978, 1981), the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (1981, 1983, 1986, 1987), the National Ballet of Canada (1985), the Pennsylvania Ballet (1984), the Israel Ballet (1984), and the Kirov Ballet (1988). Among those who conducted orchestral concerts were Charles Munch, Igor Stravinsky, and Bruno Walter.

The QE has also been the site for Vancouver performances of Cats, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Grease, and The Lion King. Popular Canadian musicians who have appeared at the QE have included Jann Arden, the Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Michael Bublé, Celine Dion, and k.d. lang. In celebration of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and the Vancouver Playhouse hosted a variety of art exhibitions, music and dance presentations. Programs include Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Russell Braun, Measha Brueggergosman, the Vancouver Bach Choir, and others; the world premiere of Bruce Ruddell's rock opera Beyond Eden and the Canadian premiere of John Adams' opera Nixon in China; Alberta Ballet's The Fiddle and the Drum; and rock musicians City and Colour (Dallas Green), Broken Social Scene, Ron Sexsmith, Lou Reed, and others.

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