Now that the opera season has started, I’m sure everyone is planning their trips up to Central City to see one (or more!) of our lovely operas. Since you’re all making the trek (at least, we hope you are), I thought I’d fill you in on what else there is to see in Central City that relates to the opera.
Central City Opera House: John Moriarty (Central City Opera's Artistic Director Emeritus) could tell you more about the Opera House than anyone else you’d meet here, and I know he could tell you more than I can. I’ll tell you a little bit of the history of the house though, in case you don’t run into Mr. Moriarty on the street. The Opera House was built by Cornish and Welsh miners in 1878. It was designed by Colorado architect Rob Roeschlaub, and its ceiling murals were painted by San Francisco artist John Massman. The Opera House now seats 550 people, and is operated primarily during the summer by the Central City Opera House Association. It's gorgeous, so take a tour if you can!
Williams Stables: The Stables were built in 1876 for use of the Teller House, but Sheriff Dick Williams bought it four years later. He and his son Oscar operated the stables until 1953, when the Opera House Association acquired it. Central City Opera now uses it for rehearsals, recitals, performances by artists of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program, and cast parties.
Teller House: The Teller House Hotel was opened in 1872 and turned into “the most elegant hotel between Chicago and San Francisco.” President Grant even stayed there in April of 1873. The Rocky Mountain National Bank was on the Teller House’s street level from 1874 to 1915, and Central City’s first telephone exchange was once headquartered there. The most famous part of the Teller House, however, might be Herndon Davis’ “Face on the Barroom Floor,” which has been turned into an opera and is one of our Festival Extras.
Johnson House: I've been wondering about the history of the Johnson House for a while, but I only just found out about it this morning, thanks to the historical wisdom of Mr. John Moriarty. Apparently, the Johnson House used to be owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Lowe. Mr. Lowe was a mining engineer, and he may have used the building across the street (now Festival Hall) as an office. After Mr. Lowe died, Mrs. Lowe sold the Johnson House, and it eventually came to be acquired by the Johnson family. (Mr. Johnson, it turns out, was employed by Atlantic Richfield Oil, which eventually merged with another oil company and become a subsidiary of the US's favorite oil company, BP. But that's besides the point.) Anyway, Mrs. Johnson eventually gave the house to the Opera company. It is now primarily used for receptions and such, but occasionally we interns get to go in there for meetings, which is always fun. It’s also deeply amusing to walk into the downstairs bedroom in Johnson House, because the quilt on the bed matches the wallpaper. Creepy!
Festival Hall: Thanks to some fun facts I learned from John Moriarty this morning, Festival Hall is one of my new favorite places in Central City. Mr. Moriarty informed me that the building used to be a brewery, a casino, a dry goods store, and a private residence. Cool, huh? In fact, if you look carefully at the top of the building, you can still (barely) see the word "CASINO" written across the top. The offices of the house manager (this year the lovely Shannon O’Connor Kenney), the company switchboard, and the desks of the interns who work out of the office (including me) are all in Festival Hall now.
Foundry: Foundry Rehearsal Hall is where the real action of the opera happens. That’s because it houses – you guessed it – our rehearsal spaces. The building itself used to be a foundry owned by the McFarlane family, but it fell apart from disuse over the years, and they sold it to the Opera House Association in the early 1990’s. They renovated it and made it into our rehearsal building. It now houses three rehearsal halls, the stage management office, and many practice rooms.
The Gilpin County History Museum: The History Museum doesn’t officially have any connection to the Opera House Association, but I figured I’d point it out in case you had a yen to learn more history than I can give you. The Museum has some great new displays and is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in the history of Central City or of the surrounding areas.
Central City Visitors Center: The Visitors Center is another place with no official connection to the Opera, but they get props anyway. Their Walking Tour brochures are the source of much of the history in this post (thanks guys!) and their employees are friendly and happy to talk about Central City and the Opera.