by Meghan Pierce – Union Leader June 23, 2022
CLAREMONT — The Claremont Opera House is celebrating its 125th anniversary on Saturday with a variety show that will include a reenactment of its June 22, 1897 dedication ceremony.
The variety show will also feature several local arts organizations that will be sharing the history and significance of theater and music in Claremont.
“It’s going to be a really exciting night for Claremont to come together to celebrate,” Executive Artistic Director Andrew Pinard said.
The Saturday event is also the official book launch of “Stage Whispers — A Living History, Retold.” The commemorative book about the history of arts and entertainment in Claremont was commissioned by the Claremont Opera House with funding from New Hampshire Humanities, Pinard said.
The book will be on sale at the event.
The first half of the show is the spoken word portion, Pinard said, and will include the dedication reenactment with author Annalisa Parent sharing some selections from “Stage Whispers” with character portrayals from members of Claremont’s community theatre troupe Off Broad Street Players performing the first play that was every performed on the stage, “The Burglar” which for this performance has been adapted into a 1940s radio show.
The second half of the night will be music, Pinard said, starting with renowned pianist Virginia Eskin performing the Claremont Grand March, by Addison P. Wyman.
The piece was written for the citizens of Claremont in 1868, and was first played at the reopening of the old town hall in 1869, then played at the dedication of the new building in 1897. Eskin will also perform ragtime music from the era of the dedication, including Fluffy Ruffle Girls Rag (1908) by Marian Davis and Maple Leaf Rag (1899) by Scott Joplin.
The Claremont Opera House has seen its ups and downs over the past century and a quarter, Pinard said, but venues like this are a testament to the arts and community.
It has seen its share of big bands, vaudeville shows, touring Broadway productions and international headliners over the years. It also sat empty for about 15 years from the 1960s to the late 1970s and was nearly torn down by the city to create space for more city offices. However, a group of dedicated citizens rallied around the historic venue and raised money to renovate and restore it to its original colors, Pinard said.
Pinard has only been with the venue for about a year, but said going forward he sees the Opera House further embracing local talent and arts to further build up the community.
“It’s really interesting to see that there is a lot of local culture happening in New Hampshire,” Pinard said, adding that “By coming together as a community you are strengthening yourself as a community you are becoming more empathic toward other people.”