Local Glories: Opera Houses on Main Street, Where Art and Community Meet

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9780199392544: Local Glories: Opera Houses on Main Street, Where Art and Community Meet

To most people, the term "opera house" conjures up images of mink-coated dowagers accompanied by tuxedo-clad men in the gilded interiors of opulent buildings like the Met in New York or La Scala in Milan. However, the opera house in the United States has a far more varied-and far more interesting-history than that stereotype implies. In Local Glories, Ann Satterthwaite explores the creative, social, and communal roles of the thousands of opera houses that flourished in small towns across the country.

By 1900, opera houses were everywhere: on second floors over hardware stores, in grand independent buildings, in the back rooms of New England town halls, and even in the bowels of a Mississippi department store. With travel made easier by the newly expanded rail lines, Sarah Bernhardt, Mark Twain, and John Philip Sousa entertained thousands of townspeople, as did countless actors, theater and opera companies, innumerable minor league magicians, circuses, and lecturers, and even 500 troupes that performed nothing but Uncle Tom's Cabin. Often the town's only large space for public assembly, the local opera house served as a place for local activities such as school graduations, recitations, sports, town meetings, elections, political rallies, and even social dances and roller skating parties. Considered local landmarks, often in distinctive architect-designed buildings, they aroused considerable pride and reinforced town identity. By considering states with distinctly different histories--principally Maine, Nebraska, Vermont, New York, and Colorado--Satterthwaite describes the diversity of opera houses, programs, audiences, buildings, promoters, and supporters--and their hopes, dreams, and ambitions.

In the twentieth century, radio and movies, and later television and changing tastes made these opera houses seem obsolete. Some were demolished, while others languished for decades until stalwart revivers discovered them again in the 1970s. The resuscitation of these opera houses today, an example of historic preservation and creative reuse, reflects the timeless quest for cultural inspiration and for local engagement to counter the anonymity of the larger world. These "local glories" are where art and community meet, forging connections and making communities today, just as they did in the nineteenth century.

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About the Author:


Ann Satterthwaite is a city planner in Washington, DC. She is involved in environmental, cultural, and preservation planning to improve community livability, civic engagement, and sustainability. The author of Going Shopping: Consumer Choices and Community Consequences, she has lectured widely and received two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Review:


"[T]his book is well researched and an excellent read...Highly recommended."--CHOICE


"A century ago, opera houses played a huge role in the vitality of small communities across the country. Now, as Ann Satterthwaite makes clear in her important new book, many of them are bringing new economic and cultural life to those same communities. It is historic preservation at its best. Brava!" --Richard Moe, former President, National Trust for Historic Preservation


"Before YouTube there was television, and before that there was radio, and before everything there was the town opera house. Ann Satterthwaite's study of this rich and intricate building type is nothing less than the story of the emergence of mass culture in America."--Michael J. Lewis, Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art, Williams College


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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2016. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Opera houses were everywhere. Many towns had at least one opera house on Main Street by 1900. Hundreds of theater troupes, opera companies, individual performers, and many sundry entertainers then tred the boards of these halls as new rail lines could bring these troupers to previously isolated hamlets in new and old sections of the country. Five hundred troupes called Tommers performed only Uncle Tom s Cabin. Sarah Bernhardt, Mark Twain, and John Philip Sousa entertained thousands of townspeople as did innumerable minor league magicians, circuses, lecturers, and theater companies. At that time, more people saw live entertainment than at any other period making this the Golden Age for this distinctly American rural institution and the beginning of an era of mass entertainment These halls, called opera houses to lend a touch of urban sophistication, were often the only large place for public assembly in a town. Aside from cultural events, they served as a public hall for local activities like school graduations, recitations, sports and town meetings, elections, and political rallies and even social dances and roller skating parties. Some were housed in town or city halls, but most were built by local entrepreneurs or committees interested in promoting the town as well as attracting performers. Considered local landmarks, often in distinctive architect-designed buildings, they aroused considerable pride and reinforced town identity. These once-proud halls, however, succumbed in the early twentieth century as radio, movies, and later television and changing tastes made them seem obsolete. Some were demolished, but those that were abandoned to pigeons languished for decades until discovered in the last three decades by stalwart revivers in small towns across the county. The phoenix has indeed arisen. The resuscitation of these opera houses today reflects the timeless quest for cultural inspiration and for communal engagement to counter the anonymity of the virtual world. These revived halls are where art and community meet. Bookseller Inventory # AOP9780199392544

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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2016. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Opera houses were everywhere. Many towns had at least one opera house on Main Street by 1900. Hundreds of theater troupes, opera companies, individual performers, and many sundry entertainers then tred the boards of these halls as new rail lines could bring these troupers to previously isolated hamlets in new and old sections of the country. Five hundred troupes called Tommers performed only Uncle Tom s Cabin. Sarah Bernhardt, Mark Twain, and John Philip Sousa entertained thousands of townspeople as did innumerable minor league magicians, circuses, lecturers, and theater companies. At that time, more people saw live entertainment than at any other period making this the Golden Age for this distinctly American rural institution and the beginning of an era of mass entertainment These halls, called opera houses to lend a touch of urban sophistication, were often the only large place for public assembly in a town. Aside from cultural events, they served as a public hall for local activities like school graduations, recitations, sports and town meetings, elections, and political rallies and even social dances and roller skating parties. Some were housed in town or city halls, but most were built by local entrepreneurs or committees interested in promoting the town as well as attracting performers. Considered local landmarks, often in distinctive architect-designed buildings, they aroused considerable pride and reinforced town identity. These once-proud halls, however, succumbed in the early twentieth century as radio, movies, and later television and changing tastes made them seem obsolete. Some were demolished, but those that were abandoned to pigeons languished for decades until discovered in the last three decades by stalwart revivers in small towns across the county. The phoenix has indeed arisen. The resuscitation of these opera houses today reflects the timeless quest for cultural inspiration and for communal engagement to counter the anonymity of the virtual world. These revived halls are where art and community meet. Bookseller Inventory # AOP9780199392544

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