Metropolitan Opera House Grand Opening

The Opera House Opening.  The formal opening of the Metropolitan Theatre, which takes place next Monday evening, will mark a new epoch in the progress and history of Grand Forks and the new northwest.  This magnificent new theatre as it stands in its majestic grandeur – beautiful and artistic within, massive and imposing without – tells an eloquent story of the progress, enterprise and culture of the people of Grand Forks and the Red River Valley.  It tells more eloquently than words can express of the confidence of the projectors in the stability and permanent growth of our city, and that Grand Forks, the whilom stage station, steamboat landing and unpretentious village, has emerged from the littleness of an obscure burg, has assumed metropolitan proportions, and is now the proudest, most beautiful and progressive city in the northwest, between Rocky Mountains and the great Mississippi.  The citizen who fails to be impressed as and benefitted by the great object lesson taught by an inspection of the Metropolitan theatre, is indeed an obtuse and unappreciative person, whose loyalty to his city and country might safely be questioned.  Every citizen, no matter how poor and humble, should be proud of this stately edifice, for its benefits go out to all alike.  No property holder will deny that property in Grand Forks is now more desirable and valuable for having such a building in our midst.  It is the duty, therefore, of every good citizen to do all he can to see that the opening entertainments are well attended, and that the hundreds of visitors who will be here, are cordially received and favorably impressed.  There are lots of seats yet unsold, and he, indeed, is not an appreciative, broad-gauged and enterprising citizen of Grand Forks, who refuses to purchase one at the reasonable prices charged by the management.  Let it not be said that there are any in Grand Forks who will refuse to contribute their mite in aid of this enterprise.  (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Saturday Evening, November 8, 1890, Volume XX, Number 7, Page 4)

Martha.  The Metropolitan Theatre Opened Last Evening by Emma Abbott Troupe.  Gov. Miller Formally Dedicates the New Edifice From the Stage.  The Audience one of Magnitude and Resplendent With Fashion.  The Gorgeous Interior of the House Entirely Baffles Description.  Electricity and Gas Blend Their Refulgent Rays in Charming Unison.  Orpheus Himself Appears With the Magic Wand of Music, And for a Season, Rich Celestial Airs Thrilled the Air.  Metropolitan Opened.  At Last the Marvel of the Northwest is Opened to the Public.  At last – after months of toil, aspirations and hopes, the Metropolitan theatre is completed and an everlasting monument to the progressive spirit which imbues our citizenship has been reared.  But little over a year ago, the project of erecting such an opera house was snooted – the scheme was discussed and the enterprise received encouragement from the start.  Chief among the early supporters of such an undertaking was Mr. George A. Batchelder of this city – a host of enterprising citizens followed in the wake and the new opera house became a settled fact.  A stock company composed of the following prominent citizens was organized, viz:

Messrs. J. Walker Smith, B. L. Gilbert, John Dinnie, M. M. Lockerby, C. N.  Barnes, D. P. McLaurin, D. W. Luke, J. L. Cole, J. O’Leary, L. B. Richardson, M. Rueth, W. J. Murphy, H. L. Whithed, W. J. Anderson, Wm. Budge, Alex. Griggs, C. P. Trepanier, E. M. Prouty, A. Abrahamson, W. H. Higham, John Cummings, James Rae, E. C. Richmond, H. P. Rucker, S. W. Rutledge, W. L. Wilder, Max Wittelshofer, S. S. Titus, H. Gotzian, Gilbert M. Walker, W. D. Russell, F. W. Iddings, James Ryan, Burke Corbet, E. J. Lander, Geo. B. Winship, John Birkholz and Geo. A. Batchelder, and from this number were elected the following officers:  President – S. S. Titus, Vice President – Geo. B. Winship, Treasurer – Geo. A. Batchelder, Secretary – Burke Corbet, Directors – E. J. Lander and John Birkholz.

It took well nigh a year to complete the structure, which is the pride of the Northwest – the Metropolitan theatre of Grand Forks.  The whole fabric exteriorly and interiorly is massive and beautiful, the expenditure being considered secondary to beauteous art and lasting grace.  The building externally in front is three stories high, constructed of Portage brown stone and Roman brick.  A curved archway over the front entrance enhancing the structure’s magnificence and lending a charm of antiquity to the house, that would satiate the most fastidious lovers of art, ancient or modern.  The main entrance is guarded by bronzed iron gates – and once beyond the portals

“Orpheus self may heave his head
From golden slumber on a bed
Of heaped Elysian flowers and hear
Such strains as would have won the ear
of Pluto, to have quite set free
His half regained Eurydice.”

At seven o’clock the bronze gates were thrown open and at 7:15 the first carriage rolled up to the entrance, and from that time until eight o’clock there was a constant and rapid rolling of carriages to the theatre entrance, and a stream of gaily dressed ladies, protected from the gaze of the curious onlookers by their numerous wraps and attended by their cavaliers, swept on through the grand entrance into the foyer, thence right and left into the dressing rooms provided for ladies and gentlemen.  Grand Forks society was out in full force last night and full dress was the order of the evening.  The audience assembled last night was probably the largest ever gathered together in the city at any theatrical or musical entertainment, and from all sides were heard exclamations of delight at the beauty of the foyer and auditorium, then for the first time presented to public view.

The foyer is of ample size to accommodate, without crowding, any audience that can be seated in the house.  The prevailing tints in the foyer are blue and gold; the carpet itself, the dressing rooms and the stair cases blending in fullest harmony.  As you enter the auditorium and pass down towards the stage the tints change from ivory to gold.  The whole decorations, lighting, drop curtain and plush upholstered chairs reminding one very strongly of the new Auditorium theatre in Chicago in prevailing hues.  The auditorium is lighted by a combination of gas and electricity; the balcony and box borders and a portion of the ceiling being lighted with incandescent lights, while an immense sun burner in the centre of the dome and gas chandeliers under the balcony and in the foyer, makes the whole building as light as day.  The decorations around the proscenium arch and the boxes are elaborate, and excited universal enthusiasm.  The artistic plush and velvet draping and velvet carpeting of the house is simply superb.  Directly above the upper boxes on either side of the auditorium are figures representative of Love on one side and music on the other; on the sounding board is a magnificent female figure in relief, surrounded by a circle of incandescent lights representing “The Dance.”

To the left of the balcony is a bust of Moliere and to the right one of Shakespeare.  The ventilation of the auditorium is well nigh perfect.  The stage is seventy feet in length by thirty-two in width and is ample and commodious.  The scenery is gorgeous and natural – the handiwork of Prof. Clauson.  The drop curtain is a model of its kind – blending in beauteous harmony with the surrounding draperies.  An actual portrayal of the proscenium arch baffles our descriptive powers – its simply grand.  From the time the auditorium commenced to fill at 7:30 until 8:15 o’clock, the audience was fully occupied in discussing the beauties of the house which so far exceeded the expectation of all, the rapid passing of the time being aided by a selection played by the orchestra, fifteen strong.  At 8:15 Burke Corbet, the secretary of the Metropolitan theatre company, accompanied by his Excellency, Governor Miller, passed from the lower right hand box to the stage in front of the curtain, requesting the indulgence of the audience for anything that might not work smoothly on account of the unparalleled labor in getting theater ready for the opening last night.  Mr. Corbet in a few apt words presented the governor, who then formally opened the Metropolitan theatre of Grand Forks, North Dakota, in the following words:

It is with gratification and pride as a citizen of our new state, that I contemplate the unmistakable evidence which I see before me of the rapid growth and advancement of this young city.  Not only in commercial prosperity, but in advancement in social refinement and culture.  The formal opening of this magnificent auditorium, which is this night dedicated to music and the Thespian art, puts behind us the primitive days of the frontier, and brings us to a new period of enlarged and increased social advantages that are really metropolitan.  Well may you, as citizens of Grand Forks, be proud of this occasion.  This substantial and costly structure, so beautiful in design, so artistic and complete in all the details of its ornamentation, designed and dedicated to music and the drama, is a conspicuous and enduring evidence of the energy, enterprise, culture and public spirit of the citizens of your city.  You will pardon us who are not so fortunate as to be residents of your beautiful and enterprising city, if we as citizens of this state also feel a tinge of pride that we have within our borders so progressive a city.  May what is already consummated be but the earnest of your future growth and development.  May your material and commercial growth be accompanied by the advancement of your educational, social and moral progress, and this city become a centre of a refining and elevating influence in the state.  May all who come within these walls secure that which shall enrich the mind, enoble the heart and add to the true enjoyment of life.

At the cessation of the governor’s address the curtain was rung up and the company welcomed by plaudits loud and long – and for the first time in the history of Grand Forks city, the opera of Martha was presented as its author intended it should.  It’s an opera full of charming music – sweet, catchy airs, and its rendition by the Abbott troupe last evening in the following cast was admirable:  Martha…Emma Abbott, Nancy…Lizzie Annandale, Lionel…Martin Pache, Plunkett…Wm. Pruette, Tristaw…Richard Karl, Sheriff…R. Rudolphi.  The solo work of Emma Abbott was excellent, as the numerous encores extended her last evening testify – “the last rose of summer” stirring the audience with a feeling akin to pathos – Miss Annandale did clever work, and received several merited recalls.  Pache as Lionel was excellent; his tenor is marvelously fine and captured the audience.  So did the singing of Pruette, the baritone.  The costumes of Miss Abbott were rich and created a furore among the fair sex in the audience as she posed in full view of the critical auditors.  The plot of Martha is this:

Lady Harriet, tired of the amusements which court life affords, forms a plan to visit the fair at Richmond disguised as a servant in search of employment.  She is accompanied by Nancy, her maid, and Sir Tristan, a cousin and admirer of hers, all appropriately attired for the occasion.  Two young farmers, Lionel and Plunkett, also come there.  Lionel is an adopted child of Plunkett’s parents, now both deceased.  Lionel’s father died leaving him nothing but a ring, with the injunction to present it to the Queen if he should ever be in distress.  The two foster brothers came to the fair for the purpose of engaging help for their farm; they are stuck with the personal appearance of Lady Harriet and her maid, and offer to engage them.  The Lady and Nancy, who relish this joke, accept the offer and take the earnest money, unaware that thereby they are bound by law to serve for the space of one year.  When they want to leave the fair the farmers detain them; Tristan’s interference is useless, and as Lady Harriett does not wish to reveal her name and rank, she is obliged to go with them.  The foster brothers soon find out that their new servants know absolutely nothing of their duties.  But as Lionel is quite smitten with the Lady, and Plunkett with the maid, their domestic incapacity is excused.  Lionel, left alone with his new servant, who has adopted the name of Martha, makes advances, and asks her to become his wife.  Lady Harriett laughs at him.  They are interrupted by Plunkett and Nancy.  The clock strikes midnight and masters and servants part to go to rest.  Tristan, who has followed the track of the ladies, assists in their escape.  A little while after this occurrence the Queen, with the ladies of her court, among whom are Lady Harriett and her maid – hunt in a forest adjoining Plunkett’s farm.  Plunkett and Lionel recognize their former servants; but the Ladies deny all knowledge of them.  Lionel, driven frantic by the cruel calmness with which Martha pretends not to know him, remembers that he has the ring left him by his father.  He entrusts it to Plunkett, who delivers it to the Queen.  Lionel is discovered to be the only son of the late Earl of Derby, who ended his days in disgrace, into which he had unjustly had fallen.  Queen Anne causes the title and possessions of the late Earl to be restored to the son.

Lady Harriett, anxious to re-establish herself in the favor of the now created earl, contrives to be the first to communicate to him the news of his parentage.  But Lionel receives her coldly, and when she offers him her hand, he even then cannot overcome the bitter feeling in his heart toward the false and cruel one.  But Lady Harriett (with the assistance of Plunkett), contrives still another plan to bring about a reconciliation.  A part of the Lady’s park is transformed into a fac simile of the market place at Richmond.  Farmers and servants appear, and the Lady in her peasant’s dress mingles with the throng.  At the sight of Lady Harriett in the costume of a servant, Lionel’s former love for her returns, and the two lovers are at last united.  So are Plunkett and Nancy and the curtain descends on two happy couples.

The whole affair was grand throughout and marks an epoch of progress in the social history of our city.  Mr. Broadhurst, the manager of the Metropolitan, seems to be the right man – and with the assistance of his corps of trained employees, prosperity seems destined to become the watchword of the new house to its owners, while its patrons and the city at large will reap benefits heretofore unknown in the social and theatrical world of Grand Forks.  Miss Abbott appears again tonight in the Rose of Castile.  The diagram shows that the seats for tonight are going off pretty lively.  Tickets are on sale tonight for the matinee tomorrow and also on sale tomorrow.  Its like will seldom if ever occur again.  (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Tuesday Evening, November 11, 1890, Volume XX, Number 9, Page 1)

The Opening.  The formal opening of the Metropolitan Theatre last night was so signal a success in all its various features that it will long be remembered as one of the red letter days of the city.  No more brilliant and appreciative audience ever assembled in any city than the one that filled the Metropolitan last night to listen to one of the world’s famous divas, and to look upon the interior of a dramatic temple the like of which can not be seen in any other city in the world of the size of Grand Forks.  And to say that the audience was pleased, surprised and fairly dazed with admiration, very faintly describes their feelings.  The arrangements were so perfect that nothing occurred to mar the pleasure of the evening.  Everything ran like clock-work.  One would have thought that it was an old established theatre in the hands of old experienced men, so smoothly, easily and accurately did everything work.  In fact, everything conspired to make the occasion one of unalloyed pleasure.  The audience was superb, unexcelled – the interior decorations tasty and artistic, and the box-office receipts large enough to wreath the directory in smiles for some time to come.  It was withal a full-grown success, and a proud occasion for every patriotic and enterprising citizen of Grand Forks.  In this connection it is proper to say that to the energy, taste, and indefatigable labors of Messrs. Titus, Batchelder, Corbet, Lander, and Birkholz, the public is indebted for the successful outcome of the entertainment.  These gentlemen have richly earned the gratitude of the people of Grand Forks, for the work they have done for the city cannot be computed in dollars and cents.  (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Tuesday Evening, November 11, 1890, Volume XX, Number 9, Page 2)


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