About Central City Opera

Established in 1932. Celebrating 90 Years in 2022.

25 Little-Known Facts About Central City Opera

  • The Central City Opera House was built for $23,000 and opened in March 1878
  • It was built by Cornish and Welsh gold miners who wanted a place for entertainment
  • In a time when cultural facilities were generally built and paid for by one rich person (E.g. Horace Tabor), Central City Opera House was conceived by the community and built by the whole town.
  • The Opera House was designed by noted Colorado architect Robert S. Roeschlaub, who also designed the Chamberlin Observatory at the University of Denver
  • It was the most luxurious theater between Chicago and San Francisco. The walls are three feet thick, giving the space perfect acoustics
  • The Opera House seats 552, and the stage is 51 feet wide by 42 feet deep, allowing every audience member an up close and personal experience
  • The miners would toss gold nuggets on stage after performances in place of roses
  • T. Barnum delivered his “How to be Happy, Healthy and Rich” speech from the Opera House stage
  • The town fell on hard times, and the Opera House closed in 1927
  • The Opera House was donated to the University of Denver by the McFarlane family
  • In 1931, two women named Anne Evans and Ida Kruse McFarlane created the Opera House Association to restore the theater and the university leased the theater for $1 a year with a 99 year lease
  • Camille was the first production of the summer festival, in July 1932. Central City Opera is the second oldest summer opera festival in the country.
  • When the Opera House reopened in the 30s, a star-studded artistic team was brought in for Camille, including stage and film star known as “The First Lady of American Cinema” Lillian Gish and Broadway legend, director Robert Edmond Jones.
  • Lillian Gish found a rat in her dressing room flowers after the show
  • The only route to Central City from Denver was to take a winding narrow dirt road nicknamed “Oh My God Road” because of its 2000ft descent in three miles.
  • Mae West starred in Diamond Lil at Central City Opera in 1949 when she was in her sixties
  • Up until the mid-1970s, NYC’s Broadway theater district had no air conditioning, so Broadway musicals and plays would travel to Central City in August to escape the heat
  • There is no heating in the Opera House, even to this day
  • At one point, Central City Opera was the largest single property owner in Central City and still maintains 30 properties, which house cast members during the summer
  • There have been numerous ghost encounters in Central City, including in the Teller House, the gift shop and the Opera House. Items regularly fall off of shelves and lights flicker. The first ever ghost hunt in the Opera House and its properties was held in August 2019
  • The Central City Opera Guild contains around 400 volunteer members who help prepare the properties for the summer, plant flowers along the street and fundraise throughout the year to help sustain the company.
  • In 2019, a heavy rainstorm flooded the Opera House, and the stage had to be rebuilt less than 2 months before opening night
  • 2020 marks the 88th year of the Central City Opera summer festival
  • Central City Opera House has seen a wide variety of acts on its stage since the 1800s, ranging from opera, to vaudeville; community theater and even boxing matches.
  • Central City Opera reaches 40,000+ people a year through statewide education programs and performances

Facts About Opera

  • The earliest description of opera defines it as, “composition in which poetry, dance and music are combined”
  • The word opera most closely translates to “work”
  • The first operas were composed around 1600 in Italy. To this day, opera is being composed and produced all over the world in tons of different languages. Some of the best known contemporary compositions are in English.
  • Everyone has a voice with which they speak, sing and communicate. Opera singers are like Olympic athlete-level users of their voice. Through a mix of talent and many years of training/upkeep, they can use their voices in an impressive way!
  • Before tv, audiences looked to theater experiences like opera for their “binge watching” material

Opera Terminology

  • Aria A self-contained song within an opera
  • Bravo! “Good job,” something audiences say when they enjoy a performance
  • Bel canto Literally “beautiful singing”, a style of Italian opera in which the beauty of the voice and singing was the highest focus, dominant in the early 19th century (composers like: Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini)
  • Cabaletta Fast, end section of an aria, especially in Italian opera, usually brilliant and showy
  • Coloratura From the German Koloratur. Decorative, and/or athletic notes in a passage of music. Can also be used to describe a role or voice that involves a lot of fast moving notes. Eg: Mozart’s Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute, Rossini’s Rosina from The Barber of Seville
  • Da capo aria An aria in three sections (ABA’ form), the second section is a contrast to the first, the third a repeat of the first section. The style was favored by G.F. Handel and other composers from late 17th and early 18th centuries
  • Leitmotif A short musical theme connected with a particular character or idea; often associated with the composer Richard Wagner but used by many other composers as well
  • Libretto Literally means “little book”, the words/text of an opera
  • Pants/Trouser role A male character that is portrayed by a women. eg: Cherubino from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro
  • Verismo Italian word that translates to “realism,” this style appears in 19th-century Italian works by Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo and more.

Opera House Address

124 Eureka Street
Central City, CO 80427

Call Us

(303) 292-6500 (Admin Offices)
(303) 292-6700 (Box Office)