Boston Opera House

Last updated
Boston Opera House
BF Keith Memorial Theatre, Boston interior.JPG
Interior view of venue (c.1970)
Boston Opera House
Former namesB.F. Keith Memorial Theatre (1928–29)
RKO Keith's Memorial Theatre (1929–65)
Savoy Theatre (1965–80)
Address539 Washington St
Boston, MA 02111-1718
OwnerBoston Opera House Ventures, LLC
Capacity 2,600
Construction
OpenedOctober 29, 1928 (1928-10-29)
Closed1990–2004
ReopenedJuly 16, 2004 (2004-07-16)
Architect Thomas W. Lamb
Tenants
Boston Uprising (OWL) [1]
Boston Ballet
Broadway Across America in Boston
Website
Venue Website

The Boston Opera House, also known as the Citizens Bank Opera House, [2] is a performing arts and esports venue located at 539 Washington St. in Boston, Massachusetts. It was originally built as the B.F. Keith Memorial Theatre, a movie palace in the Keith-Albee chain. The chain became part of RKO when it was established just before the theater opened on October 29, 1928, and it was also known as the RKO Keith's Theater. After operating for more than 50 years as a movie theater, it was rededicated in 1980 as a home for the Opera Company of Boston, which performed there until the opera company closed down in 1990 due to financial problems. The theater was reopened in 2004 after a major restoration, and it currently serves as the home of the Boston Ballet and also hosts touring Broadway shows. The theater serves as the home arena of the Boston Uprising of the Overwatch League. [1]

Contents

History

Tremont Street entrance of RKO Keith's Memorial Theatre (1938) 1938 BFKeithTheatre WashingtonSt Boston.jpg
Tremont Street entrance of RKO Keith's Memorial Theatre (1938)

The Boston Opera House was originally designed as the B.F. Keith Memorial Theatre, a lavish movie theater in the Keith-Albee chain. The Keith's Memorial was one of his most elaborate designs of the prominent theater architect Thomas W. Lamb. It was dedicated to the vaudeville pioneer B.F. Keith. On October 23, 1928, just before the theater opened, the Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) company was formed and became the owner of the theater. The theater opened on October 29, 1928, presenting first-run films along with live vaudeville. [3] [4] By 1929, the theater had converted to showing only films and remained a leading Boston movie showcase through the 1950s. It became known as RKO Keith's, and bore signage that said both "B.F. Keith's" and "RKO Keith's" (see the 1938 photo shown at right).

In 1965 the Sack Theaters company acquired the theater and renamed it the Savoy Theater. Sack later added a second smaller cinema in the theater's stage space, separated from the original auditorium by a masonry wall built across the proscenium. [5] [6]

In 1980, after closing as a movie house, the theater became the home of opera director Sarah Caldwell's Opera Company of Boston and was renamed the Boston Opera House. The theater was acquired and renovated by the opera company with the help of Boston arts patron Susan Timken. [7] After a decade of opera productions at the house, Caldwell's company collapsed due to financial troubles in 1991. Having previously produced opera since 1958 in rented theaters, the company was not financially prepared to cope with the substantial costs of upkeep for the large theater which had previously been poorly maintained for decades. The company's failure left the theater dark and without funds to maintain it. [8]

Unheated, the building fell prey to extensive water damage, severely damaging the electrical system and the decorative plaster interior of the auditorium. [3] The company's costumes, collected for decades and stored under the damaged roof, were lost. In 1996, the former opera company relinquished ownership of the building. [8]

Mayor Thomas Menino, with the aid of Senator Edward Kennedy (whose father, Joseph, was the first owner), helped to get the theater landmark status in 1999 through the Boston Landmarks Commission. After a series of failed or delayed development proposals, the Clear Channel Company agreed to renovate the theater. The need to enlarge the trapezoidal stage house into the street between buildings provoked a multi-year court fight with the neighboring Tremont on the Commons condominium building, whose concerns with fire safety were eventually overcome with the persuasion of Mayor Menino.

The Boston opera community welcomed the efforts of Mayor Menino and Clear Channel to refurbish the Opera House and the damaged interior was restored in a $38 million renovation. [9] It reopened on July 16, 2004, with the Broadway production of The Lion King. [10] Clear Channel kept the historic theater busy and active with long runs of touring Broadway musicals and pop concerts. While its agreement with city included a clause that opera be produced at least two weeks a year, no opera company has yet returned to make the Opera House its home.

The current owner of the theater is Boston Opera House Ventures, LLC, a partnership of local Boston businessmen Don Law and David Mugar. Its primary tenants are Broadway Across America, Boston Uprising and the Boston Ballet. Home to Boston Ballet's annual production of The Nutcracker since 2005, the theater became the company's permanent home in 2009. [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

Opera Company of Boston

The Opera Company of Boston was an American opera company located in Boston, Massachusetts, that was active from the late 1950s through the 1980s. The company was founded by American conductor Sarah Caldwell in 1958 under the name Boston Opera Group.

The Shubert Organization

The Shubert Organization is a theatrical producing organization and a major owner of theatres based in Manhattan, New York City. It was founded by the three Shubert brothers in the late 19th century. They steadily expanded, owning many theaters in New York and across the country. Since then it has gone through changes of ownership, but is still a major theater chain.

Cutler Majestic Theatre

The Cutler Majestic Theatre at Emerson College, in Boston, Massachusetts, is a 1903 Beaux Arts style theater, designed by the architect John Galen Howard. Originally built for theatre, it was one of three theaters commissioned in Boston by Eben Dyer Jordan, son of the founder of Jordan Marsh, a Boston-based chain of department stores. The Majestic was converted to accommodate vaudeville shows in the 1920s and eventually into a movie house in the 1950s. The change to film came with renovations that transformed the lobby and covered up much of John Galen Howard's original Beaux-Arts architecture.

Thomas W. Lamb

Thomas White Lamb (1871–1942) was a Scottish-born, American architect. He is noted as one of the foremost designers of theaters and cinemas in the 20th century.

Paramount Theatre (Boston, Massachusetts) Historic theater in Boston, Massachusetts

Paramount Theatre is a theatre in Boston on Washington Street, between Avery and West Streets.

Benjamin Franklin Keith American vaudeville theater owner

Benjamin Franklin Keith was an American vaudeville theater owner, highly influential in the evolution of variety theater into vaudeville.

The Keith-Albee-Orpheum Corporation was the owner of a chain of vaudeville and motion picture theatres. It was formed by the merger of the holdings of Benjamin Franklin Keith and Edward Franklin Albee II and Martin Beck's Orpheum Circuit.

Somerville Theatre

The Somerville Theatre is an independent movie theater and concert venue in the Davis Square neighborhood of Somerville, Massachusetts, United States. Over one hundred years old, the Somerville Theatre started off as a vaudeville house and movie theater. The theater has since transitioned and now operates as a live music venue and first-run movie theater. As a music venue, the theater has played host to many historic concerts, including the first of the two Last Dispatch concerts, two shows by Bruce Springsteen in 2003, and a performance by U2 in 2009. Recent live performances have included Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Cursive, Norah Jones, The Jonas Brothers, Joan Baez, and the John Butler Trio.

Esquire Jauchem is a producer, director, writer, and designer working in theater, opera, ballet, film, and video. In 1971 he founded The Boston Repertory Theater. In 1975, he adapted and directed the world premiere of the stage version of Harry Nilsson's The Point! starring David Morse as the character Oblio. He has produced over 1,000 television programs, most recently the Supervising Producer of Clean House starring Niecy Nash and the Co-Executive Producer of Home Made Simple starring Paige Davis. Both of those shows received Emmy nominations.

Anna Kepe, also known by her married name of Anna Kepe Haas, is a director, actress, producer, pedagogue and entrepreneur. Kepe received her MFA from The Shakespeare Theatre, Academy for Classical Acting in Washington, D.C. under the direction of Michael Kahn.

Robert Wierzel is an American lighting designer.

Oliver Morosco

Oliver Morosco was an American theatrical producer, director, writer, film producer, and theater owner. He owned Oliver Morosco Photoplay Company. He brought many of his theater actors to the screen. Frank A. Garbutt was in charge of the film business. The company was merged with Adolph Zukor's Famous Players-Lasky Corporation in 1916.

Palace Theatre (Columbus, Ohio) Performing arts center in Columbus, Ohio, a former movie theater

The Palace Theatre is a 2,695-seat restored movie palace located at 34 W. Broad Street in Columbus, Ohio. It was designed and built in 1926 by the American architect Thomas W. Lamb as part of the American Insurance Union Citadel. Today the theater functions as a multi-use performing arts venue. It is owned and operated by The Columbus Association for the Performing Arts. The Palace Theater's "house" is considered separate from LeVeque Tower, while the marquee and lobby are part of the LeVeque complex.

Orpheum Theatre (Boston)

The Orpheum Theatre is a music venue located at 1 Hamilton Place in Boston, Massachusetts. One of the oldest theaters in the United States, it was built in 1852 and was originally known as the Boston Music Hall, the original home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The concert hall was converted for use as a vaudeville theater in 1900. It was renamed the Orpheum Theatre in 1906. In 1915, the Orpheum was acquired by Loew's Theatres and substantially rebuilt. It operates as a mixed-use hall, primarily for live music concerts.

The RKO Boston Theatre was a movie theatre in Boston, Massachusetts, located at 616 Washington Street, near Essex Street in the Boston Theater District. It opened as the Keith-Albee Boston Theatre on October 5, 1925.

Bijou Theatre (Boston)

The Bijou Theatre (1882–1943) in Boston, Massachusetts, occupied the second floor of 545 Washington Street near today's Theatre District. Architect George Wetherell designed the space, described by a contemporary reviewer as "dainty." Proprietors included Edward Hastings, George Tyler, and B.F. Keith. Around the 1900s, it featured a "staircase of heavy glass under which flowed an illuminated waterfall." The Bijou "closed 31 December 1943 and was razed in 1951." The building's facade still exists. It is currently a pending Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission.

Orpheum Circuit

The Orpheum Circuit was a chain of vaudeville and movie theaters. It was founded in 1886, and operated through 1927 when it was merged into the Keith-Albee-Orpheum corporation, ultimately becoming part of the Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) corporation.

Boston Theater District United States historic place

The Boston Theater District is the center of Boston's theater scene. Many of its theaters are on Washington Street, Tremont Street, Boylston Street, and Huntington Avenue.

The Colonial Theatre in New York City was at Broadway and 62nd Street in what was then the San Juan Hill neighborhood on the Upper West Side, Manhattan. Originally named the Colonial Music Hall, it was opened in 1905 by Frederic Thompson and Elmer "Skip" Dundy. Designed by George Keister, the theater had a seating capacity of 1,293.

Abbey, Schoeffel and Grau

Abbey, Schoeffel and Grau was a US theatre management and production firm, active from 1880 until 1896. The partners were Henry E. Abbey, John B. Schoeffel and Maurice Grau. Abbey and Schoeffel had been in partnership since 1876, and joined forces with Grau in 1882. They managed and ran a number of theatres in New York and Boston, including the Metropolitan Opera House in 1883-4 and from 1891–1896, when Abbey died. Schoeffel and Grau remained at the Met until 1903.

References

  1. 1 2 Silverman, Michael (December 23, 2019). "Boston Overwatch team to hold two matches at Opera House". The Boston Globe . Retrieved December 23, 2019.
  2. Talcott, Sasha; Carol Beggy (March 19, 2005). "Bank near agreement on theate". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  3. 1 2 "History". Boston Opera House. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  4. "Citizens Bank Opera House". Broadway in Boston. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  5. "Boston Opera House". Cinema Treasures.
  6. Long, Tom (Apr 6, 2003). "Benjamin Sack, 92, scrap dealer built theater chain" . The Boston Globe. p. B9. Benjamin Sack (1911-2003) ...founded his chain, Sack Theaters, in 1952. By sheer force of personality, he built his holding, transforming theaters such as the Metropolitan and the RKO Keith Memorial and renaming them the Music Hall and the Savoy. His holdings also included the Beacon Hill, Cheri, Music Hall, and Saxon theaters.
  7. Long, Tom (November 14, 1997). "Susan H. Timken, 53; was patron of literary, operatic arts in Boston" . The Boston Globe.
  8. 1 2 Dyer, Richard (March 25, 2006). "Sarah Caldwell, impresario of Boston opera, dead at 82". The Boston Globe. p. A3.
  9. Ron Depasquale. "Extreme Makeover", Newsweek, July 26, 2004
  10. "Past Shows at the Opera House". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2010-07-26.[ dead link ]
  11. Gantz, Jeffrey (December 9, 2005). "Just right? Boston Ballet's Nutcracker at the Opera House". The Boston Phoenix . Archived from the original on September 26, 2010.

Coordinates: 42°21′15″N71°03′46″W / 42.3542°N 71.0627°W / 42.3542; -71.0627