Napa Valley Opera House History
2013 - Celebrating 10 Years Since Renovation and Re-Opening
The 10-year anniversary of the reopening of the Napa Valley Opera House is a perfect opportunity to learn about the history of a project that almost didn’t happen at all.
And if not for the funders and developers, the circa-1880 Opera House may never have gotten the facelift and upgrade it received at the turn of the recent millennium.
The first step to save the Opera House came in 1973, when Napa Valley citizens David and Kathleen Kernberger and Bruce Payne fought to get the structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Later that decade, Napans John Whitridge, Veronica di Rosa and Tom Thornley stepped in and formed a nonprofit organization to raise enough money to buy the structure from its absentee owner, an Oakland developer. At the time, the building was in a state of decay, having lain vacant since going dark in 1914 as an indirect result of the 1906 earthquake and the advent of cinema.
The nonprofit started raising rehabilitation funds at once.
In 1984 the group hired an architectural firm and a general contractor to engineer improvements, and 12 years later in 1996 the façade was restored
The following year, vintner and philanthropist Robert Mondavi and his wife Margrit Biever Mondavi earmarked matching funds of two million dollars for the restoration. Under the Board leadership of Bill Kieschnick, the organization raised the matching $2 million in less than one year, prompting Mondavi to kick in another $200,000 for good measure.
By 2000 enough funds had been raised to warrant the start of major reconstruction. That’s when Michael Savage got involved. Savage was hired as Executive Director. His task: To take the reins and steer the Opera House into Version 2.0.
“This was no easy task,” says Savage, who served as the organization’s leader from 2000 to 2004. “If you consider that the original theater was designed to seat 1,300 people—nearly one quarter of the population of Napa—you get a sense of what a big deal to the community the Opera House always has been.”
Because of this history, the group was determined to keep as faithfully as possible to the original design, varying from it only when prompted by current safety concerns or technical developments. Some of the obvious improvements: eliminating an ugly metal fire escape from the front of the building, eliminating the raked stage, adding a rake (or slope) to seating inside, shrinking seating to achieve the desired capacity of 500.
The group also made sure the project added features that had not previously existed: second floor dressing rooms, and restrooms (especially women’s) and a kitchen and Café Theatre replaced the 19th century first floor commercial spaces.
“With the balcony’s balustrade and its curving staircase, the proscenium, the brick walls, and more, the building still has many of its original parts” says Board trustee Penelope Brault,
During latter stages of the reconstruction, even though the rear wall of the theater was missing (audience members could see straight out to the eastern hills) the Opera House held two fundraising concerts in the half-completed building: a “Hard-Hat Concert” and a “Construction Concert.” Savage persuaded former colleagues from the opera world to donate their services, and remembers each show for different reasons.
At the first, renowned mezzo-soprano Victoria Livengood sang the Habanera from Carmen, during which she came down into the audience and sat on Robert Mondavi's lap. At the second concert, German baritone Franz Grundheber, stood on a chair at the downstairs reception after the show and personally raised $50,000 toward the project costs.
“Even then, when nothing about the future was completely certain, we knew this would be a special place,” Savage remembers.
After years of earthquake retrofitting and exhaustive rehabilitation, the second iteration of the Napa Opera House—newly dubbed the Napa Valley Opera House—opened its doors again in 2002. With construction continuing on the main theater upstairs, jazz singer Dianne Reeves inaugurated the renovated downstairs Café Theatre with a rousing performance that June.
The main stage (renamed the Margrit Biever Mondavi Theatre) reopened with a gala performance starring Rita Moreno on Aug. 1, 2003. Later that same week, the first ensemble performance was H.M.S. Pinafore, just as it was on opening night in January 1880.
Since the reopening, of course, the Opera House has recaptured its original grandeur and then some. It’s also drawing the biggest names in music; in the last month alone, the facility has welcomed musical talents such as Shawn Colvin, Chris Botti and the renowned Emerson String Quartet.
At this point, ten years after the rebirth of the Opera House, it’s practically inconceivable to think about downtown Napa without its most historic theater.
A popular barber and great raconteur recalls the love of his life in a drama that blends a celebration of youthful romance with a darker tale of prejudice and classism. In the waning decades of the 19th century, Kari is born with a cleft palate, the doctor attending the birth suggesting that the kind thing to do would be to drown him “like a kitten.” Instead, he grows up to be a well-liked coiffeur whose kindness and charm win him the heart of a powerful merchant’s beautiful daughter. But the older man’s disdain for Kari’s lowly status and birth defect leads him to oppose their union. Academy Award®-winning writer-director Xavier Koller tacks back an...
Mark Hummel’s Blues Harmonica Blowout returns to the Opera House, this time paying tribute to Blues Harp great, Little Walter. For the past 22 years, Mark Hummel has been putting together these great all-star performances. On this, his third trip to the Opera House, Mark joins forces with Corky Siegel, James Harman & Little Charlie Baty along with the Blues Survivors paying tribute to the great Little Walter.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a 1994 Australian comedy-drama film written and directed by Stephan Elliott. The plot follows the journey of two drag queens and a transsexual woman, played by Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp, across the Australian Outback from Sydney to Alice Springs in a tour bus that they have named "Priscilla", along the way encountering various groups and individuals.
• Rated - R — Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.
• Running Time: 104 min.
On her debut album, singer/songwriter Fatoumata Diawara — called “the most beguiling talent to hit the world music scene in some time” — uses elements of jazz, pop, and funk along with her ancestral Wassoulou tradition, accompanying her voice with rhythmical guitar playing and her own percussion work. Her lyrics touch on such serious and personal subjects as a woman’s right to choose her spouse, and the songwriter’s own painful experience with the African practice of being raised away from her parents.
ROCKSHOW is a 1980 concert film by Wings, filmed during their 1976 North American tour. It features 30 songs from four concerts of the tour: New York, May 25 (four songs); Seattle, Washington, June 10 (five songs); Los Angeles, California, June 22 (15 songs); and Los Angeles, California, June 23 (six songs). This was part of the Wings Over the World Tour that also spawned the triple live album Wings Over America. McCartney remained reluctant to make the entire film available to the general public until now.
• Running time: 141 minutes (includes exclusive 12-min interview with Paul McCartney)
The Estonian National Ballet will perform Marina Kesler's "Othello" and Tiit Helimets' "Time."
Greg Brown was born in the Hacklebarney section of southeastern Iowa and raised by a family that made words and music a way of life. His seasoned songwriting, storytelling, and music are deeply rooted in that place. He moves audiences with warmth, humor, a thundering voice and his unpretentious musical vision.
The Battle for a Living Planet is the first big-picture exploration of the environmental movement – grassroots and global activism spanning fifty years from conservation to climate change. Directed and written by Mark Kitchell, Academy Award-nominated director of Berkeley in the Sixties, and narrated by Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, Van Jones, Isabel Allende and Meryl Streep, the film premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2012, has won acclaim at festivals around the world, and in 2013 begins theatrical release as well as educational distribution and use by environmental groups and grassroots activists.
• Running Time: 101 min.
Directed and founded by trumpet player Cindy Shea in 1999, Mariachi Divas have made big waves on the national and international music scene. Mariachi Divas are a unique, multi-cultural, all female ensemble, imbued with the true flavor of Los Angeles and have been represented by women of a wide variety of descents. In 2009, Mariachi Divas won the Grammy Award for Best Regional Mexican Album of the year for their release, Canciones De Amor.
Successful attorney Amanda Bonner (Katharine Hepburn) decides to defend Doris (Judy Holliday), who stands accused of the attempted murder of her husband (Tom Ewell) and his mistress (Jean Hagen), while Bonner's lawyer husband, Adam (Spencer Tracy), signs on as the prosecuting attorney. The sensational trial that ensues finds them sitting at opposing sides of the courtroom -- and the dinner table. Not only do Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy throw comedic sparks , but their exquisite verbal jousting was scripted by the outstanding husband-wife team of Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon. The result is one of Hollywood's greatest co... • Running Time: 101 min.
Pianist Richard Glazier, a leading authority on the music of George Gershwin and the star of two award-winning PBS television specials, brings his new concert program, “Great Movies, Great Music” to the Napa Valley Opera House. Musical selections include the theme from “Auntie Mame”, two themes from Alfred Hitchcock's “Vertigo”, a “My Fair Lady” medley, “So In Love” by Cole Porter, and Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”. Known as a master storyteller, Glazier combines fascinating movie history and backstage stories, rare audio/video presentations and brilliant piano performances in an exciting show you won’t want to miss.
When describing Cherish the Ladies, the critics say it best – “It is simply impossible to imagine an audience that wouldn’t enjoy what they do,” The Boston Globe, “An astonishing array of virtuosity,” The Washington Post, “Expands the annals of Irish music in America…the music is passionate, tender and rambunctious,” The New York Times – and for the past twenty five years, Cherish the Ladies have proven themselves worthy to live up to these accolades and in doing so have become one of the most engaging ensembles in the history of Irish music.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
From its cleverly choreographed opening sequence to its heart-stopping climax on a rampant carousel, this 1951 Hitchcock classic readily earns its reputation as one of the director's finest examples of timeless cinematic suspense. It's not just a ripping-good thriller but a film student's delight and a perversely enjoyable battle of wits between tennis pro Guy (Farley Granger) and his mysterious, sycophantic admirer, Bruno (Robert Walker), who proposes a "criss-cross" scheme of traded m...
• Running Time: 101 min.
"The music says it all. Mozart is cool." So said the self-confessed "opera ignoramus" Doris Dorrie before she grabbed hold of one of the sacred cows of the operatic repertoire and transformed it into a "hippie musical." Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte ("Thus Do They All") was first staged in Vienna in 1790; it is a timeless opera, one that in fact became increasingly popular in the twentieth century as accusations of its triviality were replaced by greater recognition of its depths. Mozart's delight in juggling the comic and the serious is on full display here, and the opera's adaptability is proof of its strength. Under the motto "To cheat on your partner or not, that is the question," Dorrie stamped an originality on the work which impressed even the skeptical critics.
• In Italian with English Subtitles
• Running time: 203 minutes incl. 15 minute intermission
John Pizzarelli has had a multi-faceted career as a jazz guitarist, vocalist, and bandleader. Brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass, Larry Fuller on keyboards, and Anthony Tedesco on drums will comprise the quartet on-stage for an evening of fine jazz. This time around, he’ll be joined by his wife; the dynamic vocalist Jessica Molaskey.
Called the Simon & Garfunkel of Hawaii, HAPA returns to the Opera House! One of the most successful Hawaiian music groups in recent history, HAPA is an acoustic duo consisting of the guitarist-singers Barry Flanagan and Nathan Aweau. If you miss the islands, don’t miss this show!
Conceived from vocalist Ravid Kahalani's vision, Yemen Blues mixes music of Yemen and West Africa with contemporary grooves from funk to mambo and the deep soul of old chants. Conjuring up a rich and diverse aural palette with the use of percussion, oud, horns, and strings, Yemen Blues coexists in both the past and present, at once timeless and modern.
Zoë Keating is a one-woman orchestra. She uses a cello and a foot-controlled laptop to record layer upon layer of cello, creating intricate, haunting and compelling music. Zoë is known for both her use of technology - which she uses to sample her cello onstage - and for her DIY ethic which has resulted in the sale of over 60,000 copies of her self-released albums and a devoted social media following.
A robust, down to earth, tune-filled opera based on a favorite comedy by Shakespeare. Flamboyant Sir John Falstaff, sometimes known as Plump Jack, larger than life, hard up as usual for cash, meets his match when he rashly sets out to woo two spunky women with identical love letters and famously winds up in a laundry basket.