Council should OK opera house lease change

By Observer editorial August 23, 2010 11:58 am
It’s rarer in America for a building to reach its 100th birthday than it is for a person to reach that milestone. We are a nation that likes all things new. But there is much to appreciate in the Elgin Opera House, which will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2012, as a going concern in a thriving arts community.
The opera house, a two-story colonial style brick building, is a local landmark. In fact, it is on the National Register of Historic Buildings. At the time of its building, it was notable for its great acoustics, slanted seating arrangement, box seats, orchestra pit, elaborate backdrops and more. Even today, the opera house still has a great reputation as an excellent place to see a show or attend a concert.

To keep the opera house vital, though, more is needed. A nonprofit group, the Friends of the Opera House, has stepped up and offered to take over the lease from the current lessee, Any Dream Corp. The deal makes a lot of sense. The advantages are multitude. For one, the opera house could then rent movies for a much less expensive rate and could also qualify for more grants for the performing arts. What’s more, the nonprofit group could utilize a volunteer work force. It could make money, but the money would have to be poured back into the opera house, perpetuating whatever success is attained.

The Friends of the Opera House has become a driving force behind the success of the operation. The group plans to continue offering four major theatrical productions a year, but it also envisions using the upper room at the opera house for catered events as well as community arts classes. Such events and classes seem like a natural fit for the vaunted building.

The council will review the reworded lease at its Sept. 14 meeting and should agree to switch the lease over to the Friends. It would be a great way to start the next 100 years of opera house history.