I am a fan of great architecture and design, or any structure that shows creativity and thought. Louis Sullivan, for instance, the father of the modern skyscraper and mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright is one of my favorites. So, any time I find a jewel in our travels I try to take the time to savor and enjoy it’s statement of beauty and voice. There is such a jewel in Stoughton Wisconsin … the Stoughton Opera house.
Built and opened in 1901 as a combination City Hall, library, fire department and performing arts center, the Opera House occupies the second story. Today, the city’s administrative offices occupy the first floor, and upstairs, art and culture are on grand display.
So what is special about the Opera House? Simply it’s beauty. The amount of restorative detail and use of light and color is stunning. As a performance venue, its 475 seats simultaneously transport the performer and audience to a higher level of artistic experience.
Before we get to the beauty of the hall, there are a couple of interesting touches in the unglamorous backstage bones where graffiti from the 1930’s thru the 1950’s can still be seen on bare wooden walls. Since this building also originally housed the city’s fire department, there is an opening backstage where fire hoses were draped to hang two stories to dry.
Under the stage left prop storage loft is located a storage room that used to be a horse drawn elevator. I was told that a baby elephant once took the ride for a show long ago.
On stage right there is a small dressing room,
another prop loft,
the original light switch for the theater mounted on an insulative marble slab, and tons more graffiti.
Note the participants for the 1944 high school presentation of “Junior Miss.”
Now for the main event, the theater itself. As a member of the audience, you climb the steps to the second floor to the box office and main floor doorway.
A few steps down the aisle, you are greeted with a beautiful visual display of red velvet, polished brass, honeyed oak, and gold stenciling stirred in a color scheme of brunswick greens, burnished copper, saffron, peach and the most royal blue I have ever seen.
The lighting in this theater is a star in its own right. The beautiful blue that covers the walls turns an iridescence when lit around the stage that is staggering. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The seats have foot rest holes,
and the chandeliers, once gas and electric, hang from a handsomely decorated embossed ceiling.
Let’s take in the view from the balcony.
I look forward to returning the Stoughton Opera House. These rich environs can never get old and will always inspire.