The Central City Opera House was built in 1878 by Welsh and Cornish miners. This National Historic Landmark, centerpiece of the historic gold mining town of Central City, has hosted performances of the nation's fifth-oldest opera company since 1932. Central City Opera's National Summer Festival attracts patrons from all over the country and abroad to enjoy intimate opera in its 550 seat opera house.
Her early glory years following the 1878 grand opening were short-lived. When the Central City mines were played out, the Opera House fell into disrepair. Fortunately, a volunteer-driven effort lead by Ida Kruse McFarlane, Edna Chappel and Anne Evens led to an extensive restoration of the Opera House in 1932. That summer, the legendary actress Lillian Gish opened the newly restored Opera House with Camille, launching an annual tradition of summer festivals in Central City that continues to this day. Today, the Central City Opera ranks as the nation's fifth-oldest opera company.
In addition to Lillian Gish, other stars of opera and stage have performed in the Central City Summer Festivals, including Beverly Sills, Jerome Hines, Helen Hays, Samual Ramey and Catherine Malfitano. Successful commissions by the company include the American classic The Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore, which premiered in 1956; the popular one-act opera The Face on the Ballroom Floor by Henry Mollicone, premiered in 1978; and the 2003 world premiere of Gabriel's Daughter, also composed by Henry Mallicone.
Directed by John Moriarty for many years, Central City's prestigious Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program gained national recognition. Moriarty is now Central City's Artistic Director Emeritus. As many a visitor has been blessed to witness since 1878, the glorious history of the Central City Opera House lives on with exciting new productions each summer.