Theatrical communities just finished celebrating National Opera Week. As a nod to the festivities going on nationally, and because the Michigan Opera Theater (MOT) is one of only five opera companies in the States to own their own building, they organized a behind-the-scenes tour this weekend. Through the tour, we saw their immense stage, bustling costume and design room, the library, three floors of lobbies, and more.
When I first arrived, I was greeted by a lovely volunteer usher named Madelyn. After having ushered at several other venues, she found herself downtown at the MOT and fell in love with the theater. “Sometimes I don’t care what show is going on.” she explained, “I just love coming down here.”
The building itself is a story of various names and incarnations. It was originally designed by C. Howard Crane in opulent airs of the 20’s. But despite the structure’s immense beauty, it struggled to survive during the great depression; soft smut flicks became their main source of revenue. In the 70’s it was used as a concert hall for rock and roll music until it finally was abandoned from 1984 to 1989. In the 90’s, the Michigan Opera Theater bought the property, restored the hefty damage brought about by neglect, and finally re-opened the venue in 1996.
When we toured the stage itself, the set was up for La Bohème. Staff had us test out the acoustics and we were astonished by it’s perfection; as a side note, their singers do not have microphones, ever.
When we saw the library later on, we were told that it is, indeed, open to the public by appointment. Still, if you can’t make it down right away, they have their entire collection digitized and available on their website.
The upcoming performance of La Bohème premiers this Saturday, the 13th. After that, the Grand Rapids Ballet will perform The Nutcracker the weekend of the 26th. You can even bid on winning the role of Mother Ginger in this production (and help fund dance in Detroit by doing so!) by visiting http://www.idonatetocharity.org/shop.php?username=MOTOPERA
For more information and a full schedule of upcoming events, visit http://www.motopera.org/