A recent article by Associated Press on the history of opera houses in Colorado noted that Diamond Diva MAE WEST once graced the stage in silver-mining territories.
• • According to Robert Weller, the Central City Opera House celebrates its 130th birthday this year, and the roster of stars who have performed there over the decades is impressive.
• • Actors and actresses who appeared at Central City include MAE WEST, Walter Huston, Ruth Gordon, Sam Jaffe, Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, and Michael Redgrave. In 1932, Lillian Gish starred in "Camille," which was broadcast nationwide on NBC. A guard carrying two pistols sat in the front row because Gish wore a borrowed necklace worth $100,000.
• • Sarah Bernhardt and Edwin Booth appeared, as did John Philip Sousa and his band and the original Christy Minstrels. Pirated versions of the popular operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan were frequently performed. In 1937, Evalyn Walsh McLean wore the Hope Diamond on opening night of the play "A Doll's House."
• • Beverly Sills, Paul Plishka, Jerome Hines, and dozens more have been featured.
• • In all, about 150 opera houses were built in Colorado between 1860 and 1920. Thirteen are still in operation.
• • Still, the opera has its roots in the rough and tumble mining days of the 19th century. European immigrants to towns like Central City brought their musical traditions with them. A town's mark of civilization included having a sheriff, a courthouse, and an opera house. Theaters wouldn't do because they often also housed brothels or put on "leg shows."
• • "They hankered for some kind of civilized lifestyle that would ameliorate their loneliness and the drudgery of the work they were doing," said Charles Ralph, a Colorado opera historian. "Having entertainment, especially coupled with attractive people, mainly female, was exactly what they wanted."
• • Central City Opera: 124 Eureka Street, Central City, Colorado — — http://www.centralcityopera.org
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• • Article: "Colorado mountains home to opera since mining days"
• • By ROBERT WELLER, Associated Press Writer
• • Published by: Associated Press
• • Published on: 9 June 2008
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •