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The Rochester Opera House: A Historic Landmark Bringing People Together

By Kelly Church

The Rochester Opera House offers almost every form of theatre that one town could need: concerts, symphony, Broadway musicals, film, dance parties, and even a summer theatre camp for children, ages four through teen. ROH attracts fans from a large radius of Rochester, NH. "To date, patrons have travelled from over 600 cities and towns throughout New England and beyond to attend performances," says Susan Page, Managing Director.

The Opera House was originally built within City Hall in 1908. The architect responsible for the design of the building, Rochester native George Gilman Adams, was the innovator of a mechanism that raises/lowers the amphitheater floor. To this day, the Rochester Opera House is the only remaining theatre with this feature. The establishment also features a horseshoe balcony, grand proscenium, elaborate stenciling, and nearly flawless acoustics, adding to the historical significance of the site.

In 1974, the Opera House doors closed due to lack of funds. Twenty-one years later, Rochester Mayor Harvey E. Bernier Jr. initiated the Rochester Opera House Restoration Project, which launched a citywide effort to revive the Opera House. Countless hours of work were donated by volunteers to bring new life to the Rochester Opera House- now on the National Register of Historic Places.

"Our city shines brightest when the stage is lit, the curtains open, and the seats are filled at this magnificent theatre," Mayor of the City of Rochester T.J. Jean says. "The economic and cultural impact of the Opera House provides to the City of Rochester is truly priceless."

Priceless indeed. In 1997, after putting life back into the historical building at the hands of community volunteers, the city received the Governor's Award in the Arts for Community Spirit. Now that the Opera House is fully functional and has been reopened for many years, that sense of togetherness still lingers throughout the walls.

ROH Productions, the Opera House's in-house production company, now contracts with about 250 professional actors, directors, choreographers, dancers, musicians, and technicians to put on its Theatre Series. Students of music, acting and technical support are welcomed to the Opera House to participate in its productions.

With many awards under its belt, it's no surprise that the team at the Opera House is taking local productions to big-league levels. In the past two theatre seasons alone, the Opera House Theatre Series was nominated for 29 Spotlight on the Arts Awards and winning in several categories. In previous years, awards received have included the Regional Award for Outstanding Achievement in the American Theatre at the New England Theatre Conference for 2013.

"The Rochester Opera House has a special magic...warmth, intimacy and comfort, which just draws the audience together," Tim Sample, a performer at the Opera House, says. "Although there's a real grandeur to the theatre and a palpable connection to our past and our New England culture, it's also as intimate and friendly as your own living room. I can't explain it, but, I feel that magic every time I walk through the curtain to greet a new audience."

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