Construction Progresses On A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater

Construction Progresses On A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater

On budget and on schedule, the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater continues to take shape as part of the downtown Raleigh BTI Center for the Performing Arts. Funded by Wake County’s prepared food tax and a $2 million grant from the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, the Opera Theater will be a permanent remembrance of CBC Founder A.J. Fletcher’s love of the art form.

The BTI Performing Arts Center’s Memorial Auditorium (right) and A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater.

The A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater will house both of the National Opera Company’s annual productions each year.

Director of the Raleigh Convention and Conference Center Roger Krupa treated the 2000-2001 class of the National Opera Company and a few members of the Fletcher Foundation and CBC’s employee website staff to a tour of the construction on the Performing Arts Center last week. The entire complex is slated to open to the public next February.

The A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater sits to the left of the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, facing the complex from the front. Originally designed to have 400 seats, the theater now will hold 600–400 seats on the main floor and 200 in the balcony and in boxes along the sides. The stage is same size as the one in Memorial Auditorium so that sets can be built in the Opera Theater and then moved next door.

The Opera Theater adjoins Memorial Auditorium.

The Opera Theater will open to the public on February 20th.

The A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater has a glassed-in lobby with skylights and the walls are laden with Portuguese limestone. To the left of the lobby will be a concession area. The day-to-day operations and main box office will be housed below the lobby on the ground floor. Patrons and employees can reach this area through glass doors on the left side of the building or via elevator from the main floor. The second floor, or hospitality level, will contain access to the balcony and a donor room with vaulted ceilings. Inside the theater itself, an intimate setting is created with the close proximity of seats and boxes to the stage. The ceiling will be wooden and catwalks will be left exposed.

The lobby of the Opera Theater is lined with Portuguese limestone.

The view from the stage pans the area for the 400 seats on the main level.

The stage of the Opera Theater is in close proximity to the audience.

The control room for the Opera Theater will contain state of the art equipment.

Singers from the National Opera Company toured the construction site with guide Roger Krupa (right).

The Performing Arts Center formerly consisted only of Memorial Auditorium. Constructed in the 1930’s the 2,277-seat auditorium has undergone about $16 million of renovations since the late ’80s. It will get even more of a face lift in the coming months, to keep its standard up to the new building which will flank it. Seats will be replaced with wooden backed chairs, carpeting will be replaced, and more wood will be used in the general décor to tie it in with the theater and concert hall. The rehearsal space in the back of Memorial Auditorium will be converted into a 150-170-seat black box theater for up and coming performance groups. All equipment and seating in the space will be portable so that it can still be used for rehearsal as well.

On the right of the Performing Arts Center, Meymandi Concert Hall is taking shape as well. The N.C. Symphony donated $4 million to help make the hall a reality. The 1,700-seat concert hall is constructed mostly of concrete, has a piano lift in the stage, and a raised area behind the orchestra stage for a chorus. The lobby between the concert hall and Memorial Auditorium, created to help both facilities to comply with fire code, will house a contemporary art gallery designed by Larry Wheeler, Director of the N.C. Museum of Art.

The design for the complex is such that all three buildings can host performances at once. The Opera Theater will serve as a setting for its namesake, opera, as well as smaller performances. Meymandi Hall will mostly be dedicated to the symphony, and Memorial Auditorium will continue to play the Broadway series and other large-scale shows. Plans are also in the works for an outdoor pavilion behind the complex.

The upgraded Performing Arts Center with its two new buildings will open to the public on February 20, 2001, with a special focus on Meymandi Hall on February 21, and the spotlight on the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater on February 22. The first opera to be staged in the Opera Theater will be the National Opera Company’s spring production in May 2001.

For a larger view of photos, click on thumbnails above.
For virtual pictures of the finished look of the theater and hall, check out the website for the BTI Center for the Performing Arts.

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