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Smith Opera House

DID YOU KNOW?

The Smith has hosted concerts by Frank Zappa, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bruce Springsteen (twice!), Billy Joel, Trey Anastasio, and many,  many more!

Since 1894, the Smith Opera House has thrived as the center stage of the Finger Lakes, offering quality performing arts and cultural opportunities for area residents and regional visitors. With events open to the public, the theater is an ongoing symbol of historic preservation, non-profit perseverance and artistic excellence. It has a beautiful interior that was carefully restored in the early 1990s.

Smith Opera House interior view of stage from balcony

The Smith Opera House is a perfect venue for taking in a live performance of music, dance, theater or speech.  The theatre seats 950 on the main orchestra floor and 450 in the balcony. Additionally, the historic theater screens films on a 40 by 30 foot screen.

The Smith Center for the Arts presents many of the live performances you see on the stage, but promoters are also responsible for live events, as well as local entities such as Hobart and Williams Smith Colleges and non-profit organizations such as Geneva Concerts and Geneva Music Festival. If you have suggestions for live programming at the Smith Opera House, contact us. If you would like to rent the theater click here.

 

THE SMITH OPERA HOUSE HISTORY

Read more about our history on our blog!

Original interior of the Smith Opera House

A picture of the original interior of Smith’s Opera House, as designed by Leon H. Lempert.

The magnificent Smith Opera House opened on October 29, 1894, with a production of The Count of Monte Cristo, starring James O’Neill, father of playwright Eugene O’Neill. The Richardsonian Romenesque-style theater was the dream of local philanthropist and businessman William Smith, constructed with the vision of bringing culture and entertainment to the Finger Lakes area.

Over more than 125 years, the Smith has operated under at least three different names and been saved from the wrecking ball at least twice. In two incarnations the Opera House served strictly as a “movie house,” including many years as the Schine Enterprises’ cutting edge “atmospheric movie palace.”

Paint restoration of the French crest in progress. Picture found in the Smith Opera House Archives as a part of a Smith Opera House Center Stage booklet.

Paint restoration of the French crest in progress. Picture found in the Smith Opera House Archives as a part of a Smith Opera House Center Stage booklet.

Today’s opera house reflects these different incarnations. A massive restoration project launched in 1994 set as its goal the renovation of the building’s exterior to its original 1894 facade, and the interior to its 1931 eclectic art deco opulence. A marquee was removed from above the outside doors, revealing detailed busts of William Shakespeare and Edwin Booth. Damaged from the marquee installation, the busts were recast. Glass doors were installed at the entranceway to simulate its original open air atmosphere.

Inside, the decorative aspects of the theater were restored in exquisite detail. Just as in the 1930s, the twinkling stars of the blue-sky theater remain to delight patrons to this day.

The Smith Opera House continues as one of the oldest operating performing arts theaters in the United States. It is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places and has been called an architectural gem by The New York Times and the Smithsonian. The Smith has presented a variety of programs from burlesque to Bruce Springsteen. The Smith is an active partner in the cultural and community life of Geneva and surrounds, featuring local performances, hosting meetings, and cheering area students as they cross our stage each June for their high school graduations.