By Erin Osovets
During a normal city in Central City, Eureka Street bustles with opera company members, tourists and residents alike. Voices float through the windows of the Martin Foundry Rehearsal Hall, and the Festival Orchestra’s warm-ups spill onto the sidewalks. But 2020, for the most part, was quiet. Without the summer Festival, the town went about its daily business, waiting out the pandemic and hoping for music to fill the streets once again. However, this year-long intermission presented an opportunity for Central City Opera to tackle a long, ongoing to-do list of preservation projects on our 27 historic properties — and friends from past and present stepped in to help. Since the grand reopening of the Opera House in 1932, only World War II and the economic recession of 1982 kept the Opera from holding an annual summer Festival. Normally, the houses and administrative buildings are occupied by artists and sta« from May through August, and time to work on renovations and general upkeep is hard to come by during the colder months. So, armed with a laundry list of ideas and several dozen gallons of paint, a group of Central City Opera staff and volunteers went to work.
Central City Opera Music Director John Baril and Orchestra Personnel Co-Manager Brian Cook, together with renowned opera singers Emily Pulley and Jonathan Hays, both of whom are also past members of our Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program, formed a Central City “quarantine bubble” to live and work in the historic homes. Throughout the summer, they painted the interiors of six different properties, and Emily and Jonathan performed socially-distanced recitals in the Opera House Gardens for CCO Al Fresco, Central City Opera’s digital concert series. Both singers are based in New York City, but they offered up their time freely, preferring to spend the lockdown enjoying the mountain air, camaraderie and giving back to CCO.
Bron Wright, carpenter and principal trombone player for the orchestra, rebuilt the crumbling porch on the front of D’Albe House, and volunteers from Mountain View Bank painted the fence in front of Parish House. Professional painters were hired to bring new life to the exteriors of Festival Hall, Bradford Press and the Parking Lot Houses.
Flower Girl families restored a bench in the Opera House Gardens that was in need of some love. The Penrose Complex roof is now leak-free, thanks to new composite roof shingles and a grant provided by the Colorado State Historical Fund. A modern boiler system was installed in the famous Teller House, and students from the Colorado School of Mines partnered with our company to develop a strategy for possible engineering upgrades to the Opera House in the future. Additional studies were conducted by Marx | Okubo, an outside consulting firm, on practical short and long-term improvements for the Opera House and Teller House.
“In a few short months, we completed projects on the properties that would normally have taken years,” says Eric Chinn, Director of Historic Properties at Central City Opera. “The close friendships and beautiful music will resonate with me forever.”
The cost of maintaining Central City Opera’s Victorian properties is never-ending, but dedicated donors and Guild members passionate about historic preservation have continued to steward the buildings for the next generation to enjoy. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can help