üreyya Opera House, also called Süreyya Cultural Center (Turkish: Süreyya Operası or Süreyya Kültür Merkezi), is an opera hall located in Kadiköy district of Istanbul, Turkey. Designed and built by the politician Süreyya İlmen Pasha, it was originally established in 1927 as the first musical theatre on the Anatolian part of Istanbul. However, due to lack of appropriate facilities and equipment in the theatre, operettas were never staged. The venue was rather used as a movie theatre until the building underwent a functional restoration and reopened as an opera house by the end of 2007.


Süreyya Pasha started the construction of the building in 1924 to meet the need of a venue for cultural and social events lacking in Kadiköy. He was impressed by the glamour of famous theatres in Europe during his visits. The aesthetic and functional influences at the architectural design of the building are reflected in the foyer, an example of Art Deco inspired from the Champs-Elysées Theatre in Paris, and in the interior, which shows styles of German architecture. Called “Süreyya Opereti” (English: Süreyya Operetta) and opened on March 6, 1927, the theater was the first of its art in the Asian part of Istanbul and the sixth in the entire city.

Since the stage of the musical theatre was not wholly completed and no artist’s rooms were provided, operetta performances did not take place at all. Only theatre plays were performed some days a week. In 1930, technical equipment needed to screen sound films was installed and henceforth the venue was renamed “Süreyya Sineması” (English: Süreyya Cinema). Hikmet Nazım, father of the renowned poet Nazım Hikmet, was appointed the movie theatre’s first manager.

The ballroom at the second floor served for many years as a wedding hall. It hosted the theater group “Kadiköy Sahnesi” (Kadiköy Stage) five years long from 1959 on. Later, the space was used as an apparel workshop.

Süreyya İlmen donated the theatre in 1950 to “Darüşşafaka Cemiyeti”, a charitable organization for the the advancement of education of orphan children in poverty, with the condition to receive the revenues during his or his wife’s lifetime. He died in 1955 and his wife Adalet İlmen in 1966. The cinema, taken over by the charity society, was then run first by the daughter and then by the grandsons of Süreyya İlmen.

The audience hall of Süreyya Cinema was renovated in 1996, and the technical equipments were modernized with state of the art in 2003. Also the exterior of the building underwent a reconditioning in accordance with the original. However, all these efforts and the investments made for modernization did not bring the expected result to attract audience.


By the beginning of 2006, Kadiköy Municipality under Mayor Selami Öztürk launched a redevelopment project after leasing the building in August 2005 from Darüşşafaka Cemiyeti for a term of 40 years.[4] The restoration included the frescos at the ceiling and on the walls, and the sculptures on the facade. The construction works lasted almost two years and the cost amounted to around 14 million YTL (approx. $9m).

Süreyya Opera House reopened on December 14, 2007 performing the oratorio Yunus Emre (Opus 26) by Ahmet Adnan Saygun. Thus, Süreyya Pasha’s dream of an opera house came true after 80 years.

The theatre stage has dimensions of 14 m width, 10 m depth and 4.90 m height with an orchestra pit added newly. There are 14 dressing rooms built without changing the architecture of the building. The audience capacity of the opera house is 570 seats. The ballroom on the second floor can accommodate 500 guests.

The opera house is home to Istanbul State Opera and Ballet. Opera and ballet performances are staged three days a week at the venue. The house hosts also events like arts exhibitions and festivities like the Republic Day Ball.

Architectural Design:

Project Team:
Cafer BOZKURT, Dipl. Architect
Ilhami KURT, Architect

Architectural Consultant: Ersen GÜRSEL
Art Consultant: Murat KATOGLU
Structural Engineering: Yusuf ÖZKAN
Mechanical Engineering: Kani KORKMAZ
Electrical Engineering: Ismail YELALDI
Stage Design and Decoration: Metin DENIZ, Gökhan DINC
Sound and Lighting Design: Cemil KIVANC

Client: Kadiköy Municipality, Istanbul

Contractor: PAM Construction Co.

Architectural Design: 2006
Construction Process: 2006 - 2007

The Süreyya Pasha Concert and Opera House in Istanbul, situated on Bahariye Street in Kadiköy, was built for Süreyya Ilmen Pasha between 1923-26, and originally opened on 6 March 1927. The entrance was inspired by the Champs-Élysées Theatre in Paris, and the auditorium by classical German theatres. As the stage facilities were never completed, it was mainly used as a movie theatre: “A Broadway Melody” was the first sound picture to be shown here in 1930. In 1936 an open-air summer cinema was opened on the adjoining plot where a multi-storey car park stands today.

One of Kadiköy's first theatres, the Süreyya was strikingly different from any other theatre, particularly in terms of its foyer and auditorium. Western-style frescoes and ornaments cover the interior ceilings. There is box seating on both floors in the auditorium. The house also includes a ballroom. All along the façade, rectangular plasters with Corinthian capitals separate the windows and there are bas-reliefs and masks between them. Statues of women flank the elliptical pediment in the centre of the parapet. On either side of the door opening into the auditorium from the foyer are staircases leading to the balcony and upper floor boxes. The frescoes on the ceiling of the opera hall were painted by Naci Kalmukoglu (Kalmukov, originally Russian). The sculptures on the façade of the building as well as those around the proscenium arch were made by Ihsan Özsoy, who is considered to be one of the first Turkish sculptors.

The building, which originally belonged to the Süreyya Pasha Foundation, has now been donated to the Darüssafaka Society. The condition of this donation was that the building be devoted to cultural uses. Under the restoration project all the alterations and additions that had spoilt the original character of the building have been removed. In this way Istanbul and Kadiköy will gain a unique concert and opera house. The building's founder Süreyya Ilmen explains in his memoirs that his original intention had been to provide a theatre for the inhabitants of Kadiköy, but that the stage facilities remained unfinished. The empty spaces on either side had been intended for dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, workshops and storage. This document provides a guideline for the principles of the building’s use today.

The condition of the building at the start of the project was quite damaged. The retail shops on the ground floor had expanded not only inside the building but had also modified the façade, while the tailor atelier on the second floor had inserted a mezzanine floor in the double-height ballroom, severely altering the building.

Because the originally planned stage facilities were never completed, we proposed completing the backstage structure and adding side stages in our Restoration Project. Instead of disguising this addition, we chose to separate it visually from the original structure by constructing it out of a contemporary steel and glass structure.
While no additions are typically allowed in a historic building of the first degree, this proposal was successfully approved by the Historic Preservation Committee and the following decisions were applied to the project:

- Revision and completion of the backstage facilities to fulfill the needs of a contemporary opera and concert hall,
- Revision and development of the area under the stage as two floors of artists’ rooms and technical areas for the stage,
- Construction of an orchestra pit,
- Addition of staircases and a freight elevator next to the side stages,
- Replacement of the existing tiled roof with a lighter metal roof covering,
- Strengthening of the entire building from the foundations to the roof in accordance with the newest Earthquake Resistance Regulations,
- Installation of an air-conditioning system, that did not exist before, in the entire building,
- Installation of the necessary mechanical systems such as air-conditioning and heating, as well as lighting and acoustical systems in the opera hall.

The building should not be approached under the ubiquitous and vague concept of 'cultural centre', which would detract from its value. The inhabitants of Kadiköy and surrounding districts are undoubtedly in need of a concert and opera house, and this building is meant to meet this specific need. The restoration project reveals the original architectural features of the building and transforms it into the Süreyya Pasha Concert and Opera House in accordance with its original purpose.

The Kadiköy Municipality Süreyya Opera House has been refurbish into a venue for the Istanbul State Opera and Ballet.