The Theatre, with its extravagant Art Nouveau interior decorations, is the keystone of the complex. Originating in Europe, the Art Nouveau style uses designs inspired by nature and a love of fine crafts; a reaction against the industrialisation of the period.
Then known as The Hastings Municipal Theatre, Hawke’s Bay Opera House was designed by Wellington architect, Henry Eli White, and built in 1915 by the Bull Brothers of Napier, who submitted the lowest tender at £12,000. A considerable sum, reflecting the community’s support for performing arts.
The Theatre, designed by White to seat close to 1,400 people, was notable for uninterrupted sight lines, excellent ventilation, extensive accommodation for actors (with 15 dressing rooms) And fine acoustics. The grand opening was held on 18 October 1915, with Hastings Operatic Society performing the Chinese musical comedy, San Toy. Over its many years of operation, the Theatre has hosted a diverse range of performances and events