Sometimes bigger isn’t better. Such is the case with the Central City Opera House, home to the fifth-oldest opera company in the country and well worth the one-hour trek from Denver. Intimacy is what sets this auditorium apart; with only 550 seats, every spot in the house guarantees a rich taste of small-theater chamber opera and mesmerizing sopranos. In 1878, during Central City’s golden heyday, a committee of local miners, a prominent artist, and an accomplished architect teamed up to build the jewel-box theater as a tribute to Central City’s burgeoning prosperity. After the boom went bust in the early 1900s, the opera house was shuttered until local volunteers revived it in 1932, beginning a long-standing tradition of summer festivals that became the Central City Opera Company. Headed up by artistic director Pelham Pearce—whose vision reinvigorated and diversified the company’s repertoire—the opera has won praise and international attention for performing both classic and innovative works, such as 2003’s world premier of American composer Henry Mollicone’s Gabriel’s Daughter. This season, which opened last month and runs through August 10, includes Leonard Bernstein’s audience favorite West Side Story, Carlisle Floyd’s thought-provoking Susannah, and Benjamin Britten’s rarely performed The Rape of Lucretia. But before you don those opera glasses, make a day of your journey with these tips on other things to do in the area.
On the Way
Argo Gold Mine, Idaho Springs. Tour what once was the largest gold mine in the world (1913), but closed in 1943. It included a tunnel that stretched more than 4.5 miles underground to Central City. 303-567-2421, www.historicargotours.com.
Kevin Taylor’s Rouge at the Teller House (next door to the opera). Pre-curtain or post-applause, watch the sun set as your steak sizzles. Reservations strongly recommended. 303-582-0600, www.centralcityopera.org.
Shop Here Gilpin County Arts Association Gallery. Across the street from the opera, this 4,800-square-foot gallery features juried work by multimedia artists from the Rocky Mountain West. 303-582-5952, www.gil-pinarts.org.
Don’t Miss The glory days at the Gilpin History Museum. Bone up on Victorian-era history and mining lore. 303-582-5283, www.gilpinhistory.org.
If You Must
The family-owned Famous Bonanza Casino. The opera may be world-class, but a haul up the new parkway off I-70 wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Central City’s other claim to fame. 303-582-5914, www.famousbonanza.com.
Take I-70 west to Exit 243. Follow the Central City Parkway for 8.4 miles into Central City. Turn left onto Eureka Street. The opera house is in the center of town on your left.