More than 12,000 people have visited the Cultural Center at the Opera House for more than 90 performances since it opened a year and enjoyed a wide variety of performances and entertainment.
Many of them will return to the Opera House Saturday to help celebrate the entertainment venue’s first anniversary with birthday cake in the afternoon and a champagne and dessert reception in the evening.
“The Opera House embodies the community’s commitment to the arts, the preservation of its history and access to a state-of-the-art facility accessible to all,” Executive Director Rebecca Jessop wrote in an email. “In addition to showcasing the talents of local performing companies, the Opera House lineup included high caliber national and international performers.”
The Havre de Grace Arts Collective, a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2017 with the mission to address the cultural and economic needs of Havre de Grace, Harford County and the surrounding region, saw an urgent need for performing space in the area.
“They knew ‘If we build it, they will come,’” Jessop said. “And in fact, they did.”
The 90 performances have included local and professional plays, live music and arts performances, dance, film, arts education, youth programming, local events and private receptions and gatherings. More than 100 volunteers greeted attendees as ticket takers, ushers and box office personnel.
It took several years for the Opera House to come to fruition.
The Opera House Foundation took on the mission in 2012 to raise funds to convert the dilapidated old former Opera House into a state-of-the-art cultural arts center, Jessop said. The Opera House had been a cultural and community centerpiece in Havre de Grace since 1871.
Thanks to the energy and dedication of the community, the Foundation, the City of Havre de Grace, Harford County and State of Maryland, $4 million was raised for the project, including a $2.1 million loan from the city of Havre de Grace that was approved by the voters.
Transformation of the historic Opera House into a 21st century state-of-the-art 201-seat performing arts venue, renamed the Cultural Center at the Opera House was finished a year ago and the few venue opened Aug. 5, Jessop said.
“The requests for usage started immediately and continue to date. The days and weeks started filling up,” Jessop said. “Our goal is to be busy 365 days a year. If you drive by and there’s not a show going on that day, chances are that rehearsal is in process on stage.”
Local companies such as Scottfield Theatre Company, Tidewater Players, Lewis Lane Players, Bel Air Dance Academy, E-Street Dance Academy and Danse Macabre (Forest Hill Dance) have taken the Opera House stage, in addition to national talent, including Broadway’s EJ Zimmerman, BSOs Concertmaster Jonathan Carney, Violinist Colin Sorgi from The National Philharmonic, the Silician Tenors, jazz artist Carl Filipiak, the Cashore Marionettes, Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists, The Vivaldi Project, blues artist Frank Bey, New York Cabaret singer Lisa Viggiano and nationally known vibraphonist Warren Wolf.
“We are excited about our future plans and will continue presenting high caliber local talent, national and international talent. With the support of attendees, grants and funds raised each year at the MasquerAid Ball in February, the sky is the limit,” Jessop said. “There is so much talent out there, and we will continue to bring in high caliber talent to share with the region.”
The Opera House, managed by the Havre de Grace Arts Collective, which also manages the Arts and Entertainment District and the Arts by the Bay Gallery, was recognized this past year with three awards — the Maryland Historical Trust’s Maryland Preservation Award for Project Excellence: Community Impact; Preservation Maryland’s Best of Maryland Preservation Award; and Havre de Grace Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year Award.
Saturday’s anniversary lineup includes:
Festival, a film by Murray Lerner, 11 a.m. Festival depicts the American folk revival of the 1960s through observing the annual Newport Folk Festival between 1963 and 1966. The film is an amazing historical document of a rich cultural moment, setting the stage for the more revolutionary developments of the later ‘60s and ‘70s. American genres from gospel to jazz to black spirituals readily intersected at the festival, producing a scene not of “folk music” but as a rich stew of Americana. The big names are all there, including Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary, Donovan, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. But unlike the more canonized and better-known ‘60s festival documentaries like Monterey Pop, Woodstock and Gimme Shelter, Festival presents a relatively diverse and inclusive notion of what would come to be called the “counterculture.”
"Who Are You" collage making, 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Artist Laura Numsen is a Maryland Institute, College of Art graduate who's taught art, writing, and culture in schools, colleges and eldercare settings. She also leads SoulCollage and Vision Board retreats and and will help people of all ages tap into their inner wisdom.
"Magic in the Night: A Tribute to the Artistry of Bruce Springsteen,” 4 p.m.
Lisa Viggiano, New York City-based singer and BroadwayWorld Award winning artist, performs music celebrating the artistry of the legendary Bruce Springsteen, as well as a few others. Coast to coast, this Broadway Award Winning artist has performed as a singer/actor since she was a young child, sharing the stage and screen with talents such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Tom Hanks, Rita Moreno and Bonnie Raitt. Viggiano will be joined by internationally acclaimed guitarist, Sean Harkness, with musical arrangements by Matt Scharfglass and direction by Tanya Moberly.
“The Music of Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, Gary Burton and Roy Ayers...A History of the Vibraphone," 8 p.m.
Only in his 30s, Warren Wolf has already played with notable jazz greats, including Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra; Christian McBride (bass); Jeremy Pelt (trumpet) and “Creation”; Cyrus Chestnut; Peter Martin (piano) and many others. He’ll be joined by up-and-coming jazz phenoms Mark G. Meadows – piano/keyboards, Eliot Seppa – bass and Caroll Dashiell III – brums.
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Discount ticket packages are available. Tickets are available online at www.OHHdg.org or at the Havre de Grace Visitors Center (450 Pennington Ave., HdG) and the Artist’s Emporium (220 N. Washington St., HdG) during normal business hours.