CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Ash Lawn Opera Company and Red Light Management announced that they have reached an agreement in principle for the Opera Festival to lease the Jefferson Theatre for the months of June, July and August for 20 years beginning in the summer of 2010. The Jefferson Theatre was built as a vaudeville house in the early 1900’s, and in recent years has been used as a movie theatre. Renovation of the theatre is designed to produce a unique facility which can be used as a live music venue from September to May by Red Light and an opera house from May through August. The renovation project will have a cost exceeding $7.5 million. Major structural repairs have already begun. The full renovation will include restoration of the fly loft and balconies, adding an orchestra pit for a 50-member orchestra, installing new seating for a seated audience of approximately 500, and providing dressing rooms and other support spaces needed by a major opera company. The theatre will have a state of the art silent cooling system which along with restoration of the original hand hung plaster walls and the overall design and size of the venue, is expected to offer exceptional acoustics for opera performances and other performances, both classical and modern. The restored theater will have a flexible floor plan to accommodate the needs of all types of live music performance, from opera to acoustic concerts to rock shows with an open dance floor.
Judy Walker, the General Director of the Ash Lawn Opera Company, stated that, “Although we will all miss the pastoral beauty of Ashlawn Highlands, as an Opera Company, both our audiences and the professional quality of our performances have outgrown the limitations of the outdoor venue. The Jefferson Theatre will allow us to produce operas and shows of the highest quality. It is another step forward.”
It was also announced by Frank Buck, president of the Ash Lawn Opera Festival Board of Directors that the company will immediately begin a capital campaign to raise $4.5 million to pay for the leasehold improvements, furniture, seating and equipment, and to provide operating funds and seed money to continue and expand the Opera Festival’s musical and educational programs, such as Kids Fest, Artists-in-Residence, Opera Connects for Teachers, Family Guides for the Festival productions, Opera Rap, pre-performance lectures, Summer Saturdays, and Benjamin Britten’s Noyes Fludde, which is being produced in cooperation with the Charlottesville Public Schools and will be presented on October 25, 2008. It is anticipated that the renovations to the theatre will make it an attractive performing venue for other classical music organizations in the area.
Coran Capshaw, owner of Red Light Management, stated that “combining a music venue and an opera house fits Charlottesville’s reputation for being creative and also high lights the community’s long history of supporting live music of all kinds.” He noted that having the venue on the Downtown Mall will allow the Jefferson’s events and the Mall’s shops, restaurants, and other attractions to build on each other’s energy and vitality.
City Manager Gary O’Connell stated, “This project blesses us with another very special performing arts asset that most cities would have to build with public dollars but here has come simply from the private sector through an innovative collaboration between a for-profit and not-for-profit. It is a great example of what makes this community so strong and culturally rich. The restored Jefferson Theater will be another venue that fits within the City’s long held goal of recreating our Downtown as an arts and entertainment district. I am thankful to Coran and all of the Ash Lawn leadership that provided the hard work that it took to make this happen. We will do what we can to assist in the finalization of the project and making it the best it can be.” –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers