“There will be times in your life when you will be asked to take actions that are bigger than your understanding. It belongs to the heart of the world – the place where all beings are connected.” Eclipse Nielsen
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Whew and another weekend has slid by. I imagine you are getting excited about the tour. Today I double checked the tour dates, to make sure none had been added….THOUGH you have talked about three planned dates in Europe-Paris and London? and more talk about taking it places you had not been. Going to assume you would take a break over the winter holidays and kick off next year and again have to assume that weather would play some part as well as trying to arrange international tours must be even more painstakingly detail oriented than a US Tour….
I have to admit I am pretty excited to see how this all plays out..
Todays theatre already sounds grand, old and historic….so let’s see who she is. She celebrated her 75th Anniversary in April of 2009…
Stop # 22
Date: October 19
Theatre: Peabody Opera House, St. Louis, MO
Trivia Facts/History about the Peabody Opera House
Information supplied by the Peabody Opera House Website
The Opera House and its 3,500-seat main theater were completed in 1934 as part of the Municipal Auditorium complex that included the 9,300-seat Convention Hall that later became known as Kiel Auditorium. Construction on the Convention Hall was not completed until 1936. Designed by architects Louis LaBeaume and Eugene S. Klein, construction on the Municipal Auditorium began in 1932. The Opera House is all that remains of the original complex and extends south approximately 250 feet, where it meets Scottrade Center, the arena completed in 1994 that replaced Kiel Auditorium. Its facade extends 322 feet along Market Street frontage on the Memorial Plaza as part of St. Louis’ most significant grouping of civic buildings.
The Opera House features six to seven venues, including an ornate main theatre with approximately 3,500 seats and a two-story front lobby (constructed entirely of Tennessee and Ste. Genevieve marble), four small side theaters or halls (with a capacity of up to 700 seats each), an exposition hall, basement restaurant/bar space, offices, dressing rooms and other support spaces for the facility. During its height of activity, the Opera House attracted the world’s finest performers, including concert artists, Broadway shows, plays, dance companies, symphonies, blues, jazz, country-western, rock, grand opera and light opera. It also presented several Veiled Prophet balls, choral pageants, civic events and traveling exhibits.
Origin of Design
Inspiration for the design of the Municipal Auditorium was born out of the City Beautiful movement.The City Beautiful movement sought to use beautification and monumental grandeur in cities to create moral and civic virtue among urban populations. With the entrance to the Opera House as its focal point, St. Louis’ Municipal Auditorium was the perfect embodiment of that movement. The glorious classic architecture of the Opera House features eight Corinthian columns adorning the front of the building, flanked on either side by sculptured panels entitled “Discussion” and “Recreation,” with inscriptions by Carl Schurz and Woodrow Wilson, respectively. The building’s signature is the two 10-ton limestone Missouri bears which crouch on pedestals guarding either side of the entrance.
The model for St. Louis’ Public Building Group Plan first incorporated the construction of a Municipal Auditorium in 1919 when the City Plan Commission stated the need for a versatile town hall able to be utilized as a city hall, theater, offices or arena. St. Louis voters cleared the way for this plan in 1923 when they passed what was the nation’s largest bond issue to date, generating $87.4 million for the project that included $5 million for the Municipal Auditorium.
Construction of the Municipal Auditorium officially began in August 1932.
An Instant Classic
The Municipal Auditorium was inaugurated on April 21, 1934, with a production of Aida in the Opera House. Giovanni Martinelli and Elizabeth Rethberg of The New York Metropolitan Opera (The Met) starred in the performance conducted by Gennaro Papi. The Opera House would become a regular stop for the touring company from The Met.
While the Convention Hall side of the venue staged the largest productions, it was the Opera House that saw the predominant use in the early days of the Municipal Auditorium. One historical record indicates that 16 of its first 21 productions took place in the Opera House.
The first year of the Opera House also featured a fall season of elaborate grand opera performances in October followed by a visit by the famed Ziegfeld Follies in November.
The Opera House welcomed its first primary tenant in its first year when it became the home of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) in the 1934-35 season. SLSO was founded in 1880 and today is considered the second oldest in the nation. At the time of its completion, the Opera House was larger than New York’s famed Carnegie Hall and other known renowned halls in major American cities.
The War Years
In 1943, the Municipal Auditorium complex was re-named in honor of former St. Louis Mayor Henry W. Kiel after his passing. Kiel had championed the passage of the $87 million bond issue in 1923 during his tenure as Mayor that lasted from 1913 to 1925.
Kiel Opera House had an active life during World War II, hosting shows, concerts, and U.S.O. dances. In the 1942-43 season, the Opera House hosted 272 events. And while grand opera was absent from the local entertainment scene during the war, the St. Louis Light Opera Guild staged regular performances in the Opera House. The Student Prince, starring New York tenor Donald Gage, on May 7-8, 1946, was one such performance. The St. Louis Light Opera Guild presented a second season in 1947.
Perhaps the most historically significant event to ever take place at the Municipal Auditorium was a speech by President Harry S. Truman on October 30, 1948. The nationally-broadcast speech was the last on his whistle-stop campaign tour to win re-election of the Presidency. Truman’s speech holds a special place in the history of the Opera House as the venue’s most famous event to take advantage of the shared stage of the Opera House and Convention Hall, allowing him to speak directly to audiences in both venues at the same time.
Out with the Old, In with the New
In the 1950s, rock concerts and touring stage shows joined the regular rotation of performances at Kiel Opera House. Grand Opera returned to the Opera House in 1952 with The Met’s traveling presentations of Aida, Carmen, La Boheme, and La Traviata.
One of the most unique and star-studded performances in the history of the Opera House took place June 20, 1965, when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. organized a benefit concert for Dismas House, a national halfway home for convicts. The event was held in the main theater of the Opera House, but the overflow audience also filled a dozen halls nearby where tickets had been sold for viewing rooms where the concert was broadcast on closed circuit television. It was the only time the Rat Pack’s famous Sands show was televised. For the final number of this concert, Johnny Carson – the event’s master of ceremonies – joined the group on stage. Backing the Rat Pack for the performance was Count Basie’s Orchestra, under the direction of Quincy Jones.
Beyond the Rat Pack, dozens of world-renowned performers played shows at the Opera House between the 1950s and 1980s. The luminaries of American music and comedy included: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong, Bob Hope, Carol Channing, Katherine Hepburn, Johnny Cash, Danny Thomas, Guy Lombardo, Red Foxx, Paul Anka, Mary Martin, Tony Bennett, Eddie Arnold, Bette Midler, Perry Como, Jack Benny, Judy Garland, Benny Goodman and his orchestra, Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme, Fred Waring Chorale, Liberace and Hank Williams, both Sr. and Jr.
During that time period, several Broadway touring shows passed through the Opera House as well, including: South Pacific, King and I with Yul Brenner, Coco, Unsinkable Molly Brown, Best Little Whorehouse, My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison, Hello, Dolly with Carol Channing, The Wiz, A Chorus Line, and Hair.
The Opera House became a home for popular music during the second half of the century. Rock n’ Roll, R&B and pop artists such as Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Jimmy Buffett, Peter Gabriel, Angel, Billy Joel, The Eagles, and Bruce Springsteen took their turns headlining the venue for sold-out shows in the intimate Opera House. Rock concerts ended up being banned from the Opera House for a period of time following a 1972 performance by Emerson, Lake and Palmer that resulted in several thousand dollars’ worth of damage to the theater by unruly fans.
The most famous rock show ever staged at Kiel Opera House ranks as possibly the most anticipated concert in St. Louis history. On July 6, 1978, the Rolling Stones sold-out the 3,557 seats in the Opera House in 75 minutes after a one-time radio announcement on two St. Louis radio stations at 11 a.m. The concert held on July 11 was not a money-maker, producing a little more than $35,000 in ticket revenue, but the fervor created by the sudden announcement and small venue created an pandemonium around the event unparalleled in St. Louis history.
During the venue’s later years of activity, renowned dance troupes were brought to the Opera House by Dance St. Louis. Performances by the Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor, Kansas City Ballet and Merce Cunningham were just some of the world’s greatest dancers who graced the Opera House stage.
End of one Era, Start of Another
On May 4, 1991, a performance by the St. Louis Philharmonic marked the final event held in the Opera House to date. The Opera House was closed on May 7, 1991. After numerous attempts by various parties over nearly two decades to reopen the building, financing was completed in June 2010 to pave the way to renovate and reopen the Opera House. Today, it is known as the Peabody Opera House, thanks to a naming rights partnership with Peabody Energy, and an entire community looks forward to its reopening in the fall of 2011. On October 1, 2011, Peabody Opera House reopened its doors with a Grand Opening Gala worthy of the building’s rich history featuring headliners Aretha Franklin and Jay Leno.
Gotta say, holy crap batman, this is one seriously impressive old girl –full of history.