OperaNanaimo was founded in 2013 by Carol Fetherston and Michael and Bonnie Stebbings.
Just this past summer, The Society, decided to adopt a more integrated artistic approach to its programming so it added a new “Artist In The Garden” element to its Voices in the Vineyard event. Resident artist and sculptor Joël A. Prevost (Vancouver Island Sculpting Studio) was the first featured artist, and his display made the Voices event even more special.
We know that many of you have been—or are—supporters and sponsors/benefactors of Opera Nanaimo, and for this, we thank you.
Of note also is that opera is not new to Nanaimo. Indeed, the idea found its way to this city by way of the construction of an Opera House here over a century ago.
The Opera House was designed by well known Victoria architect William Ridgway Wilson, and it was conceived and built by John Mayhrer, a prominent Nanaimo businessman, who at the time was both a brewmaster and city councillor. His plan for the Opera House was approved and, when it opened on Church Street on March 16, 1889, its impact was immediate. The three-storey building housed a hotel on the upper two floors and a showpiece theatre at ground level below. Considered grand and sophisticated at the time, it featured a mirrored rotunda, an 800-seat auditorium, royal boxes, red and gold-laced curtains, galleries, and a modern orchestra pit.
For many years, it served as an elegant venue for community events, and many prominent and successful local and touring musicians, actors, poets, artists, and vaudeville performers appeared there. Popular-at-the-time poet and writer, Pauline Johnson, for example, read poetry to assembled audiences incorporating into her performances notes from her father’s Aboriginal and her mother’s English backgrounds, and, in 1902, the theatre also hosted one of Nanaimo’s first picture shows there: a series of over 10,000 animated images of Edward VII being crowned King on August 9, 1902 in London, England.
Sadly fire destroyed the building, and it was never rebuilt. The impressive structure stood where the Dorchester Hotel is located today.