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Night at the Opera

Posted by Jim Botticelli  January 1, 2014 12:28 PM

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Photo from the Collection of Ken Everts

A night at the opera. Speaking as an operatic ignoramus, I'll say that opera for me is right up there with 70's Women's Music, Kenny G and Yanni. Yeah, I know, there's something there. It just ain't registering on these ears. But that's okay and people that enjoy it seem genuine.

But that's not the point here. What is the point is that in Dirty Old Boston, the Opera House once stood on Huntington Av directly across from Northeastern University's main campus. And it was there from 1909 through 1958. In fact the stretch of Huntington Av from the Boston Public Library out to the green of the Fens was once known as the Avenue of the Arts. The Opera House was funded by Eben Jordan, son of one of the founders of Jordan Marsh. The goal was to make Boston a player in the New York/European operatic "scene". And from all accounts the building was designed in the grand tradition of internationally acclaimed operatic institutions.
Unfortunately the untimely death of Jordan in 1916 led to it's takeover by J.J. Schubert in 1918. It was shortly thereafter that problems began. The Schubert organization saw the venue as a more universal performance center and brought in a variety of shows that were met with public acclaim. One of these shows was an actual circus that was opened on the stage of the Opera House. By 1940 the building was in need of repairs. After trying to sell it but finding no buyers, The Schubert organization struggled to book the house which was dark more often than lit, unlike their other venues such as the Schubert Theater and the Wilbur Theater, which had long term runs.

Structurally the building began to suffer, having been built on sandy soil. Northeastern University, already in an expansive period, wanted the land. The City of Boston wanted no part of it as a civic auditorium, so in the end Northeastern got it for a song in 1957. Northeastern made the Boston Opera House into a parking lot initially. All that's left of the Eben Jordan legacy today is the venue at the New England Conservatory known as Jordan Hall.

Thanks for vital information to Retro Boston Remembered

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This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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