Opera House and Theatre – classical gilding for prestigious buildings
During restoration of an old theatre or gilding of a new opera house, the decision has to be made: gold leaf or metal 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 metal leaf seems to be a lot cheaper than gold leaf, and lay persons hardly notice the difference when the object has been gilded, the cheaper material is frequently used.
Gold leaf or metal leaf? For the opera and theatre, the choice is obvious
When deciding on whether to use gold leaf or metal 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 metal 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, metal leaf is perfect for props and scenery. Gilding of scenery and objects are usually done for a specific repertoire, which are then no longer used, and therefore don’t have to be long-lasting.
In the section Gilding Techniques with Leaf Metal and based on our long-standing experience in gilding opera buildings and theatres, we describe some problems presented by gilding with lower priced leaf metal.