The building sets an example to Estonian–Finnish architecture collaboration and the active relations between the two countries at the beginning of the 20th century. It was designed by Finnish architects Armas Lindgren (1874–1929) and Wivi Lönn (1872–1966). Their proposal “Thalia” got a shared second prize in an international architectural competition held in 1908.
The construction of the theatre building, realised in so-called Nordic Jugendstil, was considered an important national effort. The theatre was officially opened to the public on 24 August in 1913. At the time, it was the largest building in the centre of Tallinn, and events of national importance took place there, including the founding meeting of the new state in 1919.
The building was heavily damaged in the Soviet air raid on Tallinn on 9 March 1944. It was reconstructed and reopened during the Soviet era in 1947.
The complex has two large auditoriums in two separate wings. From the outside, the main façade is symmetrical. The building, located between two main streets in a park-like environment, has been expanded in the 1990s. It now houses the Estonian National Opera and ballet and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. In 2006, a new chamber hall was opened in the attic.
Text: Tarja Nurmi