Civic Opera House (Chicago)
The Civic Opera House is an opera house located at 20 North Wacker Drive in Chicago. It is part of a building which contains a 45-story office tower and two 22-story wings, known as the Civic Opera Building. This structure opened on November 4, 1929 and has an Art Deco interior.
The Civic Opera House has 3,563 seats, making it the second-largest opera auditorium in North America. Built for the Chicago Civic Opera, today it is the permanent home of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In 2012 Tishman Speyer Properties L.P. sold the 915,000-square-foot office tower portion of the building for $125.8 million to an affiliate of Nanuet, N.Y.-based Berkley Properties LLC.
Samuel Insull envisioned and hired the design team for building a new opera house to serve as the home for the Chicago Civic Opera. The building has been seen as being shaped like a huge chair and is sometimes referred to as "Insull's Throne."
Samuel Insull selected the architecture firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White who were responsible for several other buildings in the downtown Chicago Loop. As they did on other occasions, the architects commissioned Henry Hering to produce architectural sculpture for the building.
The inaugural season was marked by the première of Camille, a modern opera by 28-year old Chicago-composer Hamilton Forrest on July 15, 1929. It was commissioned by the Civic Opera's prime star and manager, Mary Garden. While the opera received mixed reviews and parts of it were broadcast in the Boston area, the Civic Opera is the only house in which it has ever been performed.
The opera house underwent a major renovation in 1993 when it was purchased by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, which had previously rented the space. The chairs were repainted and reupholstered, the carpeting replaced, and the gilt paint completely re-stenciled. The massive project was completed in 1996.
This opera house was the inspiration for the one featured in Orson Welles's film, Citizen Kane. In order for his aspiring opera singer wife to perform, Charles Foster Kane builds an opera house for her, but the quality of her singing reveals her ineptitude. In reality, Samuel Insull built this opera house for his wife, who was not hired by New York's Metropolitan Opera.
During the 1950s and 1960s the building was identified by a large "Kemper Insurance" sign, although it was not that company's headquarters.
- Cassiday Schade
- National Automatic Merchandising Association
- Himes Consulting Group
- Surplus Record Machinery & Equipment Directory
- Ryan Ori, "Civic Opera Building sells for almost $126 million" on chicagorealestate daily.com 15 February 2012. Retrieved 19 February 20122
- Pearson, "The Other Traviata: Hamilton Forrest's Camille"
- Law Firm Renews 63,000-SF Deal at Civic Opera Building
- Two Lease Renewals at Civic Opera Building
- Chappell, Sally Kitt, Transforming Tradition: Architecture and Planning of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, 1912–1936, Chicago, Il: University of Chicago Press, 1992
- Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, Architectural Sculpture in America, unpublished manuscript
- Pearson, Edward Hagelin, "The Other Traviata: Hamilton Forrest's Camille" in The Opera Quarterly, 1995 on oxfordjournals.org
- Civic Opera House website
- Lyric Opera website
- "The Magic Wand of the Opera" Popular Mechanics, February 1930, pp 202-205 technical details of the 1929 advances Civic Opera House over other opera houses of that era - i.e. curtains, back-drops, movable stages, lighting, etc
- Chicago landmarks web site with photos of the building