Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Tabor Opera House

The Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado was built in 100 days in 1879 by a certain Horace Tabor, who passed himself off as a wealthy silver magnate. For a while it was a standard stop for artists on coast to coast tours, including Buffalo Bill, Oscar Wilde and Harry Houdini (who is said to have installed the trap door still present in the center of the stage). Tabor, it turned out, was just riding a local silver bubble, and when it crashed in 1894 he was bankrupt. The opera was taken over by the local Elks Lodge and slowly declined.

It is now being renovated with help from the National Trust. During the renovation, more than 100 pieces of historic scenery were discovered, dating back as far as 1883. The collection is now being cleaned and investigated.

One of the interesting things about such an operation from our perspective is that the division between "classical" music and popular music wasn't very well formed, so a place like this might host things we think of as opera (Puccini, Verdi, etc.) and also Vaudeville shows. Puccini and Verdi were after all once very popular composers with mass audiences. So theaters like this hosted a crazy variety of performances. And therefore needed a lot of scenery.

Wonderful, the thing lying around in old attics.

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