We were so pleased to be sitting in the 3rd row of the incredible Napa Opera House last Friday. This year is the 10th anniversary of the re-opening of this grand old place. Way back when, only years after the conclusion of the Civil War, the Opera House opened with a glorious performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, H.M.S. Pinafore. In the years that followed, the stage buzzed almost every night with events ranging from vaudeville acts to music concerts, plays to lectures. The Opera House flourished during its early years, regularly drawing crowds of nearly 1,300 from all over the San Francisco Bay Area.
Some nights, they came to hear the Napa Orchestral Society; other nights, they came for lectures about the local wheat industry (Napa was once known as the “bread basket” of California), or life at San Quentin Prison. There were boxing bouts, minstrel shows and vaudeville acts which comprised any number of dancers, jugglers, acrobats, magicians, monologists, hypnotists and acting troupes. An annual masquerade ball was also held, offering “elegant prizes” for participants.
In 1906 the San Francisco earthquake stretched its shaking into Napa and damaged the Opera House. While repairs were taking place, a movie theatre opened. By 1912 people were flocking to the new silent films, which usually had live entertainment to start off the evening. Folks thought they were getting far more value for their dollar and the opera house sat empty. It closed in 1914 and remained in a deteriorated state for the next 89 years.
Robert Mondavi matched the local funds raised at the start of this century and it re-opened in 2003.
The 2nd and 3rd floors are the actual stage and seating and the first floor is a nice cafe and bar area.
We enjoyed sitting with the local folks waiting for the upstairs doors to open for Zoe Keating.
She won a Grammy last year for Contemporary Classical Album of the year. Here’s a You-Tube tape of her in her home studio. She is a one-woman cello band with a huge pedal-board in front of her that allows her to loop tracks and create brilliantly scored sounds. Check her out if you have five minutes right here: