Ghent discovered opera in the late sixteenth century. A widow known as Joanny - very much against the wishes of Ghent's bishop - organised a number of performances. Ghent acquired a taste for opera and in 1698 the de Pyckerye stables at the Kouter were converted into a theatre. When the theatre burnt down a new theatre was built in the same location in 1737: the Sint-Sebastiaansschouwburg
However, Ghent's rich industrials wanted to build a new opera in the mid nineteenth century befitting Ghent's stature and the Sint-Sebastiaansschouwburg was demolished.
City architect Louis Roelandt was commissioned to build a new theatre in a new street: the Schouwburgstraat. Roelandt also designed the nearby court house and the La Concorde ballroom on the Kouter. In this way, an entire district constituted an architectural unit.
On 30 August 1840 the opera, which seats 1800 to 2000 people, was inaugurated. The auditorium currently seats 1002 people. The decorations were made by the same workshop that decorated Antwerp's Bourlaschouwburg.
The banquet halls - the foyer, the Redoute hall and the Lully hall - are 90 metres in length.
The Redoute hall thanks its name to the Société des Redoutes which organised its parties in this hall. The original ceiling painting was a cloudscape but this was painted over.
The Lully hall is probably the most spectacular of the three salons. The piece de resistance is the majestic chandelier, a so-called sac-à-perles.
The chandelier in the auditorium has a diameter of 3 metres, it is 4.5 metre high and has 84 lights.
The stage is 11.40 metres wide. The fly tower is 23 metres high.
Over the course of its history, Ghent's opera has been thoroughly renovated. The last major renovation was completed in 1993. After seven years of restoration the façade of Ghent's opera was finally unveiled again in 2002.