French Opera House on opening night, November 18, 1902. Photo by John Teunisson

OPERA America Celebrates New Orleans as America’s First City of Opera

With the 100th anniversary of the burning of the French opera house on December 4, 2019, New Orleans will host OPERA America to celebrate the history of opera in this country.

Fit for opera lovers, history buffs and music fans of all kinds, the two events will commemorate America’s first city of opera. The first will be on December 3 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and will feature a panel discussion moderated by Marc A. Scorca, President and CEO of OPERA America. Featuring speakers Robert Lyall, Givonna Joseph, Alfred Lemmon, and Jack Belsom, the presentation will discuss the rich history of Opera in New Orleans and the role it has played in shaping the Crescent City’s colorful and unique culture. 

The second event, Loss and Rebirth — One Hundred Years Later, will feature opera legends Greer Grimsley, Luretta Bybee, Bryan Hymel, Irini Kyriakidou, Sarah Jane McMahon, Dennis Jesse, and Claire Shackleton, paying homage to the city they call home. To celebrate the place where it all began, the company of world-renowned opera singers will sing the music featured in the French Opera House’s 1919-2020 season preceding the fire. The collaboration of these celebrated artists will illustrate that the loss did not stop the renaissance of opera in New Orleans, but allowed a rebirth of the historical art form. The celebration will begin at 7:30 p.m. on December 4 at the Nunemaker Auditorium at Loyola University. 

Both events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit