A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater Opens To Public

A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater Opens To Public

Cutting the ribbon to open the AJ Fletcher Opera Theatre were (left to right) Jim Goodmon, Mayor Paul Coble, Tom McGuire & Irv Pearce.

The City of Raleigh unveiled its new four theater BTI Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, February 20. With ribbon cuttings for the Meymandi Concert Hall, the Kennedy Theater, the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater and the complex as a whole, about 4,000 people gathered to get a first look at the $38 million project.

Guests were greeted on the front steps by a multi-colored dragon and a chorus of bag pipers. The air was festive, a real celebration for the arts in Raleigh. A warm winter’s night served as a backdrop for this grand event that had been over a year in the making.

The A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater ribbon cutting took place at 6:30pm with Mayor Paul Coble, CBC President & CEO and Fletcher’s grandson Jim Goodmon, A.J. Fletcher Foundation Executive Director Tom McGuire, architect for the project Irv Pearce,

The Carolina Ballet performed in the Fletcher Theater during the grand opening gala.

and Raleigh Convention and Conference Center Director Roger Krupa behind the ribbon.

The front lobby to the Fletcher Theater adjoins the lobbies for Memorial Auditorium & Meymandi Hall.

The Fletcher Theater seats 600, and is lined with cherry panels. The state of the art design highlights acoustics and provides an intimate setting.
Coble presided over the ceremony, reminiscing about his memories of seeing the National Opera Company at his school as a child. Coble spoke of A.J. Fletcher’s dream of bringing opera to the people of North Carolina. Fletcher started the Grassroots Opera in 1940s, which later became the NOC, and insisted that performances be in English to make them more accessible to schoolchildren.

Jim Goodmon said a few words about his grandfather, for whom the Theater is named.

The gala included receptions in the foyers for all four performance halls.

Tom McGuire represented the Foundation at the ribbon cutting.

Goodmon quipped, “My grandfather would be surprised we gave $2 million to anybody,” and got several chuckles from the crowd. Then he spoke of his grandfather’s dedication to opera-Goodmon estimates that he had seen over 300 operas before his 16th birthday together with his grandfather. Goodmon said, “I’m really pleased to be able to help with the construction of this hall. It’s really remarkable. We’ve done what Mr. Fletcher would want. We’ve carried the ball and moved his dream along.”

The Fletcher Foundation took two steps to further Fletcher’s passion for opera in the past year. They created the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute in a joint venture between the National Opera Company and the N.C. School of the Arts. Secondly, the Foundation donated $2 million towards the construction of the Opera Theater and received the naming rights for the structure.

McGuire said, “This night has been a long time coming but it seems like just yesterday [that we started the project].” He stated that the BTI Center will be a home for the arts in Raleigh. McGuire closed by saying, “I think Mr. Fletcher is smiling on us tonight and that makes me feel very good.”

As Coble cut the ribbon with Goodmon and McGuire, he said, “In memory of your grandfather, Mr. A.J. Fletcher.” As the ribbon fell, patrons poured into the 600-seat theater to admire the cherry paneled walls, the frosted glass balcony aprons and the overall intimate and warm setting.

Mini-performances by over 100 artists took place in the BTI Performing Centers after all ribbons had been cut. WRAL-TV’s anchor Pam Saulsby emceed the events in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater, including performances by the Carolina Ballet, the National Opera Company and the N.C. Youth Tap Ensemble.

Trigon the Dragon puffed congratulations on the front plaza of the complex.

The Daffy Dots also provided entertainment before and during the ribbon cutting.

The NC State Pipe & Drum Corp played festive music as a backdrop to the dragon and Daffy Dots.

A fireworks display followed the dedication of the BTI Performing Arts Center as a whole.
The inaugural concert in the Fletcher Opera Theater will be a performance by opera singer Dawn Upshaw on Thursday, February 22 at 8:00pm preceded by a champagne reception at 7:30pm. Meymandi Concert Hall officially opened with an evening concert by the North Carolina Symphony with pianist André Watts on Wednesday, February 21.
A group of Raleigh City officers and supporters of the arts cut the ribbon to open the entire complex.

The N.C. Symphony christened Meymandi Concert Hall on Wed., Feb. 21.

Former NC Secretary of Cultural Resources Betty McCain attended the event.

KD Kennedy, Jr. (left to right)), his wife Sara Lynn and Mayor Coble dedicated the Kennedy Theater, a 170-seat box theater on the back side of Memorial Auditorium.

The lower lobby that connects Meymandi Hall to Memorial Hall will eventually house an art gallery for patrons to visit during intermissions and before performances.

Assad Meymandi (left) helped Mayor Coble (center) cut the ribbon for Meymandi Hall. Dr. Meymandi gave $2 million to build the Hall for the NC Symphony and have the structure named for his mother.

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