Celebrity guests, local dignitaries and Friends of the Marlowe were treated to a gala performance by the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by David Parry. Joining the orchestra were opera stars Sir John Tomlinson and Carmen Giannattasio, who helped to show off the new auditorium's enviable acoustics with arias from Il trovatore, Don Giovanni and La forza del destino..
The £26.5m new theatre stands on the site of the previous one, also named for Christopher Marlowe (who was, of course, born in the city). That building was a converted 1930s cinema . Its replacement, with a substantial increase in capacity, will be able to host large-scale shows normally out of bounds to regional venues. It also boasts a studio area with variable seating, which will be used for art installations and smaller-scale productions.
Prince Edward, who has been the royal patron for the theatre's fundraising campaign, said: “One thing this evening's celebrations are not about is a reopening; for Canterbury has a splendid new landmark, Kent has an exciting new performing arts space and the region has a new venue which is capable of attracting the best performers in the land and beyond. Thank you for helping to make this day a reality.”
The gala opening will be followed over the weekend by open days giving the public the chance to look round the theatre and take part in a range of workshops.