In 1877, the citizens of Central City organized a fundraising drive for a grand new opera house befitting the gold mining town's reputation as "the richest square mile on earth." Many of the town's residents were Welsh and Cornish miners, who brought … show more
In 1877, the citizens of Central City organized a fundraising drive for a grand new opera house befitting the gold mining town's reputation as "the richest square mile on earth." Many of the town's residents were Welsh and Cornish miners, who brought with them a rich tradition of music from their homeland. While locals pitched in during construction, the organizers also retained some of the best building professionals in the area. Prominent Denver architect Robert S. Roeschlaub provided an elegant, understated design for the stone structure, and San Francisco artist John C. Massman added elaborate trompe l'oeil murals to the interior.
Her early glory years following the 1878 grand opening were short-lived. When the Central City mines were played out, the Opera House fell into disrepair. Fortunately, a volunteer-driven effort led by Ida Kruse McFarlane, Edna Chappell and Anne Evans led to an extensive restoration of the Opera House in 1932. That summer, the legendary actress Lillian Gish opened the newly restored opera house with Camille, launching an annual tradition of summer festivals in Central City that continues to this day.
Early festivals featured both opera and theater; more recently, the six-week festival has been a celebration of traditional and progressive works. In addition to Lillian Gish, other stars of the opera and stage have performed in the Central City summer festivals, including Beverly Sills, Jerome Hines, Helen Hayes, Samuel Ramey, and Catherine Malfitano. Successful commissions for the company include the American classic The Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore, premiered in 1956, the popular one-act opera The Face On The Barroom Floor by Henry Mollicone, premiered in 1978 and the 2003 world premiere of Gabriel's Daughter, also composed by Henry Mollicone.
Central City Opera's prestigious Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program, founded by Artistic Director Emeritus John Moriarty and continued by Marc Astafan, has served...