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A Visual Tour of Wisconsin's Fine Opera Houses

Interior view of the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater from the balcony
WHI 68345

Before the Web, television, radio or even motion pictures, Americans consumed music and drama in their local opera house. Although that phrase might conjure up images of Luciano Pavarotti or Maria Callas, most opera houses hosted all sorts of live theater and community events. In the decades following the Civil War, no self-respecting city or town could do without its own opera house. Many were humble affairs supported by municipal governments or charitable societies, while others were sumptuous palaces built by leading businessmen.

Every opera house "proudly celebrated the community's sense of distinction and heralded a sense of civic achievement," says Shullsburg native Brian Leahy Doyle, whose recent book "Encore! The Renaissance of Wisconsin Opera Houses" presents detailed portraits of the early history and modern renovation of 10 Wisconsin theaters. Visit the Wisconsin Historical Images gallery made possible by Brian Doyle's book and Mark Fay's photographs.

:: Posted May 24, 2010

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