Opera House and Theatre – classical gilding for prestigious buildings
During the restoration of an old theatre or the gilding of a new opera house, the following decision has to be made: gold leaf or imitation gold leaf? An opera house is a representative building deserving of luxurious decorations and richly gilded elements. Cost is often the only factor considered when selecting materials. Since imitation gold leaf seems to be a lot cheaper than real gold leaf, and lay persons hardly notice the difference, the cheaper material is frequently used.
Gold leaf or imitation gold leaf? For the opera and theatre house, the choice is obvious
When deciding on whether to use gold leaf or imitation gold leaf, consider the cultural significance and purpose of the building involved. Theatres and operas are used to rehearse and perform over very long periods. High-quality gilding of interior furnishings with genuine gold leaf requires no additional care until the next building renovation. Restoration work, carried out at regular intervals, and maintenance of surfaces treated with imitation gold leaf cause high costs and extended periods of forced inactivity. Genuine gold leaf is the material of choice for opera or theatre interiors and exteriors.
In contrast, imitation gold leaf is perfect for props and scenery. Gilding of scenery and objects are usually done for a specific playing schedule, which are then no longer used, and therefore do not have to be long-lasting.
In the section Gilding Techniques with imitation gold and silver leaf, based on our long-standing experience in gilding opera buildings and theatres, we describe some problems that come up when gilding with the lower priced imitation gold leaf.