The City Opera House of Traverse City, a turn-of-the-century opera house, once hosted vaudville shows and live circuses. Today, this gem located on Front Street, right downtown, has undergone a spectacular renovation and is packed with modern-day people attending music concerts, dance nights, educational events, private receptions and so much more.
The City Opera House was a valued gathering place from the moment it opened its doors on February 5, 1892 with ballroom dancing and dinner. Over the next couple of decades the space saw everything from masquerade balls to basketballs, with melodramas and light comedy theater drawing large crowds, a few of which had short runs for being perceived as too risqué.
There were periods when the Opera House was closed and decades when it seemed it might languish as a forgotten gem. Thanks to William Vortruba, the owner of the building from 1945 until 1985, the building remained open for local group tours. Having gotten the opera house onto the National Register of Historic Places, The Votruba family donated the City Opera House to the City of Traverse City in 1980. A capital campaign to raise funds for an extensive renovation and long-term vitality has neared completion at $8.5 million. The renovation was largely completed in January 2007 and among other things, increased seating by 150% to 700.
Today, the City Opera House hosts 75,000 persons annually who attend more than 200 events. Performances, priced to allow people of all income levels to attend, have included Jeff Daniels, Shawn Colvin, Sweet Honey and the Rock, Little Feat as well as sold out comedy performances by Mike Birbiglia, Kathleen Madigan.