The first opera house was opened in February 1810 and was designed by Thomas de Thomon, an architect from St. Petersburg. In January 1873, the building was destroyed by fire. After a lengthy fund raising campaign and various design proposals a new and larger theatre was commenced in 1883. Under the control of two Viennese architects, Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer the theatre was completed in 1887. The theatre was the first building in Odessa to employ the Edison Company to fit electric illumination.
In 1925, another fire broke out which destroyed the stage and orchestra pit.
In August 1941, when the Romanian army was dangerously close to Odessa, the command of the Odessa defensive area appointed a special anti-aircraft unit, and gave it the task of protecting the theatre from bombing. Guns were installed on roofs and houses around the theatre. During World War II, Nikita Khrushchev, concerned about the condition of the city, visited Odessa immediately after it was liberated. Khrushchev reported that only one corner of the building had been damaged by an enemy shell.