Cork Opera House

Address: Emmett Place

Guided tour 10am

Cork Opera House has a long and glorious history of culture and architecture. This Cork institution began its life as The Athenauem when it was first built on Anglesea Street to house the National Exhibition. Designed by the much-celebrated architect Sir John Benson, the structure was deconstructed brick by brick to be rehoused on Emmet Place.

It was originally built for the promotion of science, literature and the fine arts and was to be used for the purpose of lectures, meetings, and exhibitions. However, it hosted its first performance in January of 1855. The Athenaeum later became known as The Munster Hall and in 1877 it was renamed the Opera House after extensive reconstruction. CJ Phipps of London (who was responsible for around 20 theatres including the Gaiety in Dublin) was commissioned to redesign the Opera House and to re-equip it as a theatre proper.


Having survived the terrible Burning of Cork in 1920, the old Cork Opera House would later succumb to a similar fate when it burned down as a result of an electrical fault. On the evening of the 12th of December 1955, there had been a rehearsal for the panto of that year - Sleeping Beauty. The devastating fire saw the building and the people of Cork be brought to their knees through the pain of losing this much-loved house. What followed in the weeks, months and years following the fire was a huge fundraising effort by the people of Cork who dug deep to rebuild their beloved Opera House. In 1965, a modern theatre designed by Scott Tallon Walker was rebuilt on the same site.

In 1993, a new front of house was designed by Murray ÓLaoire Architects for “a vision of the building which takes the architecture of Cork City into the 21st century”. Completed in 2000, the complex then included the main auditorium, two bars, corporate boxes, foyer, café and shop and in recent years has been upgraded consistently to improve the building even further.


Today Cork Opera House is southern Ireland’s premier venue for the best concerts, comedy, drama, dance, family fare, and, of course, opera. Located in the heart of Cork City, the Opera House has been a Cork cultural institution for over 160 years and will continue to strive to present and produce both indigenous and international top-class acts for the people of Cork and further afield.

A guided tour of the Cork Opera House will take place at 10am. Booking essential on Cork Opera House Guided Tour