Music lives in Lancaster, Pa., at a theater that - over the course of its more than 160 years - has served as a vaudeville venue, a cinema, and today, a stage reserved for musical theater and plays. WRTI’s Jim Cotter takes us to a historic opera house…that has never really housed opera.
Since its opening in 1852, Fulton Opera House in Lancaster County has remained open – making it one of the oldest continuously operating theater buildings in the nation. However, noted local playwright Barry Kornhauser, who also worked at the Fulton for over 30 years, says that despite its name it was never known as a place to hear your favorite arias.
This was called an opera house in those days because theaters still had an iffy reputation. “Opera House” sounded a little more impressive. But it wasn’t strictly opera? It was never really opera at all. That was tradition of the time. People were railing against theater…so they thought, theater owners, that if they called the places opera houses, they could fool some of the people some of the time.
Now the building is better known to most as the Fulton Theater; a company that produces seven full productions and four family shows each season. And despite the theater’s rich history, Managing Director Aaron Young says the company is committed to a contemporary mission.
We’re not a museum. We honor what has been done in the past, but it’s all about, how do we move forward? How do we communicate with an audience now? How do we remain relevant in an era that has a lot of different options for people’s leisure time? We no longer have a monopoly like we did back in the 1800s when the theater was built.
In addition to their stage productions, the Fulton also engages in various community and accessibility programs. Offering outreach to local schools, ASL Interpretation, Open Captioning, Audio Description, and our Assistive Listening devices for the hearing impaired, and their annual Pennsylvania High School theater Festival. More than a century-and-a-half after it began, the Fulton Opera House continues to be a community focal point where theater blossoms and music lives.
Jim Cotter speaks with harpsichordist and Temple University music professor Joyce Lindorff. A celebration of early keyboard music she's helped organize culminates with a concert featuring music from 18th-century Philadelphia this weekend.
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