In this response from July 2013, Dr. Know points out that appreciation for Music Hall as a venue is a relatively recent development.
I’ve always heard that Cincinnati Opera used to perform at the Cincinnati Zoo, but I’ve never understood why. If Music Hall has been around for donkey’s ages, how come it wasn’t always the opera’s home?—Confused Ticket HolderDear Holder:Remember the 1920s? Neither does the Doctor. But he has read about the Jazz Age, when the Cincinnati Opera came to life, and he knows that in those days things were a bit different in the Midwest’s Southeasternmost Metropolis. One thing that was quite a bit different is that there was no Cult of the Music Hall in 1920, the Opera’s founding year. Back then, Music Hall was just a great hulking middle-aged brick pile, built to house the May Festival and a series of industrial expositions next to a fetid, unused canal. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra had abandoned the place, having moved into the acoustically-superior purpose-built Emery Auditorium a few blocks away. Music Hall’s auditorium had thousands of seats, but no stage machinery, no flies, no scenery storage, no air conditioning, nor anything else needed for a massive operatic production. So the Opera organizers went to what was even then a huge attraction, the beautifully landscaped and parklike zoo, located on streetcar lines in a plump and prosperous Avondale, up on the hilltop where breezes would cool the fevered passions of Manon, Cavaradossi, Sieglinde, and Parsifal. And there, for five decades, opera fans pretended that the summer breezes were not carrying the scent of elephant pee or that some of the trumpeting was from the horn section rather than baboons. Finally in 1972, everybody gave up and moved into the now–air conditioned Music Hall where the CSO had long-since returned.
So now the Doctor has a question for you. Don’t you think it’s pretty hilarious that Collective Wisdom has decided to spend more than the cost of a streetcar route to fiddle with Music Hall until it nearly matches the capacity and resonance of the empty and largely abandoned Emery Auditorium? The Doctor would fall out of his hideously cramped seat in the gallery at Music Hall laughing at the situation except that his legs are permanently stuck in the microscopic space between the rows.
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