French Opera House

History of the French Opera House

Site of the First U.S. Opera House

This site held the French Opera House. It was built in 1859 and was the cultural center of New Orleans society and the first opera house in the United States. In addition to the grand productions, the opera house hosted Mardi Gras balls, debuts, concerts, benefits, and receptions. Built in the Greek Revival style, the opera house was designed by famous architect James Gallier. The grand auditorium was decorated in red and white and seated 1,800 people in four tiers. Operas have been performed in New Orleans since 1790 and hundreds of operas were performed in the old French Opera House. For sixty years, the Opera House was the hub of Creole society. It burned in 1919 and, in the Times-Picayune article published the next day, the writer echoed the words of a stunned city: “The heart of the old French Quarter has stopped beating.”

Interesting Remnant

Notice that Bourbon Street is wider here than at any other block along the street. The street was designed this way so that carriages could pull over to drop off or pick up their patrons.

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