In the mountains above Idaho Springs, Colorado, lies a treasure called The City of Central, once known as the "richest square mile on Earth." At one time, it was the most prominent city in Colorado. Its Teller House Hotel was considered the finest such establishment west of the Mississippi.
The Opera House, built in 1872 by Welsh and Cornish miners, eventually fell into disuse as the city declined after the gold rush fever ran its course. It was reopened in 1932 and has been in continuous operation since then. This was our 10th annual visit to Central City and its jewel-box opera house. Few people realize what an incredible array of enjoyable activities take place in Central City between late June and early August year after year. Name performers, as well as a cadre of younger apprentices, come from around the country to take part in the annual festival.
This family of bears seems to be aware of something happening in Central City as they head up the Central City Parkway!
Since discovering the Chase Creek Inn Bed & Breakfast in 2004, it has become our base of operations for our visits to Central City.
Located in Blackhawk "around the corner from all the hustle and bustle of the gambling establishments," this B&B is an oasis of tranquility, with the Chase Creek gurgling alongside the house and birds chirping in the trees. Sitting on the porch, one can watch squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, hummingbirds, bumblebees, and other creatures, while enjoying gentle breezes or quiet conversation. Here we are, having just arrived on Friday night.
The proprietors of the Chase Creek Inn B&B, Hal and Karen, always make our stay feel more like visiting family and friends than staying in a hotel.
There are three rooms in the Inn. This was ours this year.
Our Friday night meal tradition is to hike down to the Ameristar Hotel and Casino in Blackhawk to enjoy their delicious buffet.
I am usually too focused on the buffet to remember to snap a photo. Here we are at the Centennial Buffet at the Ameristar Hotel and Casino.
Free parking is available in one of the public lots. Here we are walking into town from the lot.
This picture was taken to illustrate the sagging of the building that houses the Easy Street Casino. One of our regular stops is Millie's, the restaurant on the top floor of this establishment.
In the afternoon, before our first opera, we had a sort of warmup called Short Works. It consists of three scenes from three different operatic works. In our case, we were treated to two advertisements for next seasons offerings, a scene from Showboat and one from The Barber of Seville. Additionally, they presented a scene from Rigoletto. Short Works are presented in the Williams Stables, across Eureka Street from the Opera House and Teller House.
On Saturday evening, we saw Oklahoma. Technically a musical, it was a wonderful night of musical entertainment, with lively, fun-filled singing and dancing and an appealing plot. Every year, the Central City Opera House Association tries to highlight opera in English, particularly American opera and at times, a musical. We have enjoyed seeing West Side Story (2008) and A Little Night Music (2009) in years past. The American opera Susannah (2008) has become one of our favorites.
This year's offering of Oklahoma was a triumph. The excitement starts immediately and doesn't end until the final curtain falls. If our schedule permitted, we would see it again.
This is a shot of the Victorian style seen in the historic Teller House Hotel, as we made our way to the Face Bar for further musical entertainment.
This is the Teller House's "Face Bar," named for the picture painted on the floor of the bar.
We saw The Face on the Barroom Floor, the one-act opera by Henry Mollicone, performed in the Face Bar back in 2007.
This is the room next to the Face Bar, where about ten performers (including two of the main characters from Oklahoma) came to sing arias, show tunes, and comical songs until midnight. They call it "Après Opera," and it is loads of fun. This has become a regular part of our weekend.
One of the most hilarious of the offerings was the following. Ours was performed by a male soloist, but it's funny with this group, too. Check it out.
Our second opera of the weekend was La Bohème. This is Kathy's favorite, and Puccini is definitely one of my favorite composers of opera. It was very well done, and we enjoyed it immensely. After the excitement of the night before, it was of course, much more subdued, but that was to be expected.
In addition to opera, there are other fun things going on during opera season. On Saturday, there was a mock gunfight on Main Street. One of the gun fighters showed up anachronistically on his Harley!
Our midday meal on Sundays is often at Millie's, a family-style restaurant on the second floor of the Easy Street Casino.