Boston Opera House
Photos by Whitney Cox
boston opera house
Originally a vaudeville house, this 1928 venue stands among the nation’s finest in opulence, extensive gilt, quality of detailing and is Boston’s only Thomas Lamb theatre. After closing in 1991, the project became trapped in an economic vise grip suffered by many historic performing arts venues. M+J worked with the owner to fully restore and carefully renovate this venue, in order to host Broadway style entertainment, among others.
Lacking a sufficiently large stagehouse and dressing support facilities, the theatre could not generate enough economic activity to save and restore the museum quality public spaces. The goal of the project became to balance the preservation and restoration of the wonderful Baroque interiors with the creation of a state-of-the-art performing arts facility fully equipped with theatrical, lighting, sound, mechanical, electrical, and fire/life safety systems.
The outdated stagehouse was demolished and replaced with a new 100-foot high, steel-framed structure including a dressing support facility. This new “heart” equipped to handle the most challenging modern performances enabled the owners to create an economic engine that would save the “soul’ of the historic venue and restore the magnificent original interiors. During the restoration process, layers of finishes and fabrics were removed by the architects to explore the original color and finish treatment in the theatre. Original carpet and wall covering samples were located, cataloged, and documented for the recreation of these elements in the restored venue. Thirty-foot wide openings in the original ceiling were closed with new plaster, the new work blending carefully with original material that was being saved. As the design team slowly rebuilt the palette of colors and finishes of the theatre, the full picture of Thomas Lamb’s vision emerged.
The restoration was completed in July 2004 and the theatre opened with Disney’s The Lion King to great acclaim. The theatre has proven to be an economic catalyst for the city and is considered a victory for preservationists and theatre lovers alike.