The House Mat David Built
On Sunday, MOT General Director David DiChiera, tenor Luciano Pavarotti and opera supporters will have
something to sing about when the new Detroit Opera House opens.
MICHAEL H. MARGOLIN SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
PHOTO BY GLENN TRIEST
ombining symphonic music, drama, atre (1929-34)/Broadway Capitol Theatre
large-scale theater and the sound of (1934-60)/Grand Circus Theatre (1960-1989)
unamplified melodic voices, opera has become: the Detroit Opera House.
MOT General Director Dr. David DiChiera
offers something unique in live en-
tertainment. Maybe that's why, had a dream — some would say a vision —
according to OPERA America, at- of a theater devoted exclusively to opera pro-
tendance at opera performances rose in 1995 ductions. No more fighting for booking space
by 7.4 percent for professional opera compa- at the Masonic or the Fisher — but a home
owned exclusively by MOT for the regular
nies in North America.
On Sunday, after 25 years in rented space, audiences of opera and ballet in southeast-
Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT) will inau- ern Michigan, northern Ohio and parts of
gurate the Detroit Opera House. The new Ontario.
And DiChiera went out and did something
permanent space will be home to more than
11,000 season subscribers, a 115 percent in- about it: MOT has raised some $18 million
in private funds and grants toward the esti-
crease over the past five years.
Did C. Howard Crane, architect of many mated $24 million-plus cost for the DOH.
The Detroit Opera House is a real success
famous Detroit theaters including the Fox,
dream that his 1922 Capitol Theatre in down- story — a building that represents the hopes
town Detroit would one day resound with the and aspirations of hundreds of musicians,
voices of Carmens, Don Giovannis and Sa- singers and dancers; dozens of technicians
lomes? Probably not. But he did create an op- and supernumeraries; and thousands of
ulent, decoratively rich house scaled perfectly opera goers.
Here are some of the highlights of 25 years
for grand opera. And that is what the former
Capitol Theatre (1922-29)/Paramount The- — and a glimpse of the future.
DON FACTS AND TIDBITS...
• The stage is the largest in
• Main auditorium: 2,675
seating capacity — 1,350
orchestra, 160 boxes, 250
grand loge, 500 lower bal-
cony, 415 upper balcony
• Dressing rooms: capacity
of 111 — three 3-person
dressing rooms and one
conductor dressing room;
each with restroom and
shower; three chorus
dressing rooms for 56 and
rooms for 45 chorus/su-
• 20-plus brass and glass
chandeliers, some as
large as 5 feet across,
take up to 64 bulbs each
The proscenium opening is 53 feet wide by
30 feet high, laying area 33 feet wide x 65
feet deep, with two 4 x 8-foot traps in center
• Orchestra pit: capacity for 90 musicians
• Sound systems: full-building audio intercom, video monitoring;
digital opera surtitle and hearing enhancement systems
• Carpet: 2,800 square yards of historic carpet
• Audience participation: 55 feet from the front of the balcony to
the stage, 127 feet to the farthest seat
PHOTO BY GLENN TRIEST
MOT Director of Artistic Resources Mitchell Krieger.
MEET MITCHELL KRIEGER...
itchell Krieger is now in
his fifth year as director of
artistic resources for
Michigan Opera Theatre.
His role is "primarily to work with
Dr. DiChiera on repertory and cast-
ing — to keep my eye out for young
talent, such as Marcello Giordani,
debuting in La Boheme this April,"
says Krieger. "He is a tenor with an
incredible voice, a wonderfully gift-
ed actor ... tall, dark and hand-
Krieger earned his master's in
conducting at the California Insti-
tute of the Arts and has also con-
ducted for MOT a recent Madame
Butterfly. His ear for talent is honed
by the "network in the opera world
— we all talk to one another," he
says. In addition, Krieger finds tal-
ent though auditions and artists'
Sometimes an artist has such
special qualities that MOT will then
seek a production to fit. Such was
the case with Joan Sutherland, for
whom a new production of Norma
was mounted in the 1988-89 sea-
son. MOT will do Carmen in the
1995-96 season, says Krieger, for
Russian expatriate Irina Mishura,
who left her native Russia to escape
anti-Semitism and has been "dis-
covered" here; she lives in Royal
Krieger adds that, in some in-
stances, a wonderful physical pro-
duction is available, and MOT will
decide to produce it. That's the case
with Boheme, which comes from
the Kennedy Center in Washing-
ton, D.C., and "could not be done on
any other stage in Detroit," because
of the enormous second-act set.
The stage of the new Detroit
Opera House will make "a huge dif-
ference," Krieger says.
"First of all, the stage and pit will
accommodate things we never
could do before," such as Strauss'
Salome with its symphony-sized or-
chestra, opening in June. "Well also
be able to control time periods ...
if we get a fabulous artist." The sea-
son schedule will be flexible since
MOT will be the primary tenant in
The DOH will also be renting
space, thereby competing with the
Masonic for big road shows such as
Beauty and the Beast. (Recently, for
example, State Fair, on a pre-
Broadway tour, could not play De-
troit because the current stages
Krieger loves opera, and now he
has new opportunities as a pro-
ducer as well as conductor. But he
still has regrets that he cannot sing.
"You have to be given an instru-
ment," he says. Beverly Sills,
Robert Merrill and Richard Tuck-
er are fellow Jews who were given
an "instrument." So what would
Krieger want his instrument to be?
"To be rich, I'd like to be a tenor;
to sing my favorite role — (Verdi's)
Falstaff — a baritone; to be loved,
a soprano." ❑