The Queen Elisabeth Hall was inaugurated on 25 July 1897. Between 1958 and 1960, the old festivity venue was converted to a modern concert hall. Since it opened in 1897, 2,590 symphonic concerts, 75 recitals, 76 musical afternoons, 32 chamber music concerts, and 12 ballet performances had been held there. The Marble Hall, where many tea concerts were organized before the First World War, was the preferred location for chamber music concerts.
The Flemish composer and orchestra director Edward Keurvels (1853-1916) founded the ZOO’s own symphonic orchestra and became its first director. The orchestra performed a groundbreaking and diverse repertoire with music of over 350 composers, many of which were contemporary and alive. The orchestra demonstrated a preference for local composers, with a focus on the compositions of Peter Benoit (1834-1901). Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was the orchestra’s preferred foreign composer.
The ZOO’s own choir, which originally had 40 members, became very successful after the First World War. The choir expanded to 120 members and also performed outside Antwerp, for example, in the Brussels Munt, the Palais des Beaux Arts, and at the 1935 World Exposition. The choir was awarded the title ‘Royal’ in 1954.
The Queen Elisabeth Hall has welcomed successful artists such as Johnny Cash, Tina Turner, Toon Hermans, Van Morrison, Herman van Veen, Miles Davis, Roy Orbison, Nina Simone, Paolo Conte, Tom Jones, B.B. King, Joe Satriani, Jethro Tull, JJ Cale, Axelle Red, Helmut Lotti, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Diana Ross, Nick Cave, Tracy Chapman, Eels, Elvis Costello, and Sting.