Central City, 35 miles west of Denver, may be known best to outsiders as a gambling town, but the casinos aren’t the only attractions. The Central City Opera House, built in 1878, offers a historic and cultural experience.
Welsh and Cornish miners, who brought cultural heritages to the gold-mining town from their homelands, built the opera house through volunteer efforts and fund-raising drives. Denver architect Robert S. Roeschlaub drew the plans and San Francisco artist John C. Massman decorated the interior.
With flourishing gold mines, Central City developed a reputation as the richest square mile on earth, and the opera house helped boost this claim. When the mines dried out, the opera house fell into disrepair. In 1932, another volunteer effort led to its restoration. The 550-seat theatre has undergone major renovations since then, including refurbished and modern seating. It stands at the heart of the town, a National Historic Landmark, and has continued to lend a stage to performers and operas.
It is maintained by and home to the nation’s fifth-oldest opera company, the Central City Opera House Association. Every year the group puts on a summer festival, with operas ranging from the traditional to the progressive and with a repertoire that attracts top performers and directors from around the world.
The festival is the second oldest annual professional opera in the country, established the summer of the theatre’s grand re-opening in 1932. Three productions are presented each year – one opera favorite, an American piece and one lesser-known work. The line up for 2011 includes Carmen by Bizet, Amadigi Di Gaula by Handel and three one-acts, Gianni Schicchi, The Seven Deadly Sins and The Breasts of Tiresias.
The festival has smaller 30-minute operas and pre-show previews presented throughout the summer. The Opera House Association Guild also sponsors a family-friendly picnic lunch with the opera singers before they perform, as well as promotes the summer opera through concerts outside of Central City, including areas such as Boulder.
If You Go
Central City Opera House
124 Eureka St.
Central City, Colorado 80427
Individual tickets range from $30 to $105 based on seating. Ticket subscriptions for multiple shows start at just $42. Tickets may be purchased through the Opera House website, by calling 303-292-6700 or at the box office in Denver at 400 S. Colorado Blvd., Suite 525.