Battleford Opera House
The restored town hall that now houses the Battleford opera.
Opera and town management went hand in hand a century ago. At least that seems to have been the case in Melville and the town of Battleford.
As we discovered in our Winter 2013 issue, the Melville opera house, while still intact and benefitting from some very determined supporters, still has a way to go to attract the crowds of music-lovers it did in the years prior to WWII. Its counterpart in Battleford is in exactly the same predicament.
Both the Melville and Battleford building house their respective community administrations. At one time, the aristocracy of small and medium-sized towns (the mayor, council, various municipal interests) were closely associated with the creation and maintenance of high culture in burgeoning prairie towns. The inclusion of an opera hall seemed an obvious choice.
Today, the opera halls are rarely used (in Melville's case) and still under re-construction (in that of Battleford.) Both need a very expensive elevator adaptation so that everyone who wants to visit the halls can do so. Both are part way through renovations and are in need of hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars to see the job done.
The Battleford hall has not seen much more construction since we reported on it in 2011. The shell has been completed but the interior and the elevator remain unfunded.
"We are working on detailed designs with an architect," says Battleford town administrator Cheryl Ballendine. "A non-profit organization has been formed and they are working with the town on the design."
Naturally, fundraising initiatives will be a big part of the new non-profit's activities. Eventually the non-profit organization will be transformed into the opera hall's board of directors, says Ballendine.
In the meantime, the town administration will continue to function from the building as it always has. Fans of live music in a century-old opera venue will have to wait—and work—a while yet to savour the experience.
Story and photos by Lionel Hughes
For our original web article read: Opera House on the Prairie by Debra Fieguth
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