Susie Sainsbury Theatre
New rooftop Recital Hall
Five new percussion studios
14 refurbished practice and dressing rooms
New audio-visual control room
A highly successful campaign raising towards £30 million by the Academy and its supporters
The Royal Academy of Music today opens newly transformed facilities at its Marylebone Road home, including the 309-seat Susie Sainsbury Theatre and the new 100-seat rooftop Recital Hall, as well as 14 refurbished practice and dressing rooms, five new percussion studios (two opening soon, the others by Easter), a large refurbished jazz room and a new control suite for the Academy’s audio-visual recordings department. The project marks one of the most significant building and renovation project in the Academy’s near-200-year history and has been funded almost entirely by a philanthropic campaign.
The Theatre is named for Lady Sainsbury of Turville CBE, a committed supporter of the Academy and the Deputy Chair of its Governing Body, following charitable grants from the family’s Backstage Trust and Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Designed by RIBA Award-winning Ian Ritchie Architects, the project has transformed the original theatre which stood from 1976 to 2015, and has added an airy new rooftop space, significantly enhancing the existing performance, rehearsal and recording facilities. The Theatre and Recital Hall are both fully accessible and wheelchair friendly, with a new lift installed for ease of access. Both spaces have been acoustically engineered by Arup.
The Susie Sainsbury Theatre, built on the site of the original Sir Jack Lyons Theatre, has a reshaped auditorium and a new balcony, increasing capacity by 40%, and improving sightlines dramatically. As well as a new fly tower and side wings, the design delivers world-class stage and recording facilities in an adaptable theatre suitable for all forms of opera and musical theatre productions.
The Recital Hall was built on top of the Theatre and, acoustically isolated, it will provide one of the best quality small recording studios in London. Contemporary in style and lined in oak, it features an oculus in the roof, flooding the room with natural light. The 100-plus seats are entirely flexible and the space can be adapted to accommodate recording sessions, rehearsals, masterclasses and performances.
The two venues are acoustically separated but are connected by renovated public spaces including a new Theatre atrium and a social space outside the Recital Hall, featuring the Edwardian rear brick wall of the main Academy building.
Following two years of touring external venues, Royal Academy Opera (RAO) and the Royal Academy Musical Theatre Company return home this spring. RAO opens the Theatre on 12 March with Jonathan Dove’s Flight, and details of the Academy Musical Theatre Company’s inaugural productions at the new Theatre will be released later this year.
The Academy’s Principal, Jonathan Freeman-Attwood CBE, says: ‘The new facilities mark an important milestone in the Academy’s history with these superb spaces enabling our students to rehearse, perform and record music at the highest level. The project would not have been possible without the tremendous philanthropic support we have received from many close friends. It is testament to how much our generous patrons and donors believe in this institution and want to play their part in inspiring and nurturing the greatest musicians and cultural ambassadors of the future.’