Walking into the Pittsburgh Opera’s home in the Strip District is like being transported back in time. Built in 1869, the space was originally utilized as George Westinghouse’s original air brake factory. Hanging on one of the walls is a quote from Westinghouse himself:
“If someday they say of me that I have benefited my fellow man, then I shall be satisfied.”
At 45,000 square feet, the industrial space (with cool, modern touches like exposed brick walls and wood beams throughout) has plenty of room to house Opera rehearsals, a space for Attack Theater to practice their productions, and even a place for wigs, make-up, and costume production. (The space can be rented out for weddings and other events on its off-hours).
I met with the Pittsburgh Opera’s general director Christopher Hahn, a native of South Africa, (who has the most amazing accent), and took a tour through the facility. Many people have a misperception of opera and its audience as being old fashioned -- an image that Mr. Hahn wants to change:
“People think [the opera] is so serious; but it is fun and uplifting. It touches on so many areas of our knowledge, and may be the most complex and invigorating art form available to us.”
Not only does the Pittsburgh Opera showcase a wide array of performances (from the classics to more contemporary pieces) but they also travel to schools to teach children and teenagers about this amazing art form through their art trunk program.
During the tour I was reminded of my first exposure to opera, in high school, when my chorus class sang songs from Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.” This memory still resonates with me today as I fell in love with so many of the melodies.
Later on the tour, Michele Fabrizi, board chair, met us as we meandered through the costume and wig department. She echoed Mr. Hahn’s thoughts about the mission of the Pittsburgh Opera.
“It’s important for people to try new things,” she said. “We need to get out of our comfort zones, have new experiences, expand our minds, enrich our lives. That’s what the arts can do for us.”
It’s hard not to get excited about opera when seeing this beautiful building and hearing from two of its staunchest supporters. I became even more enthusiastic when I heard about their monthly Brown Bag Lunch program. This is FREE (yes you read that correctly!) to the public and usually happens on the second Saturday of each month (October through April). Bring your lunch and enjoy a free concert...how cool is that?
Opera is accessible, it is uplifting, and it can even be transformative!
I am looking forward to their upcoming fundraising event, Maecenas XXX (voted one of the best parties of the year by the Post Gazette).
Pictured above in the costume department: Michele Fabrizi & Christopher Hahn
For more information on this gala, CLICK HERE. Clearly, it will be #MoneyWellSpent.
Follow the Pittsburgh Opera on Twitter: @PittsburghOpera