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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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New Book in the bookstore!

New Book in the bookstore!

Friday, April 22, 2016

You might spot a familiar landmark on the cover of Local Glories: Opera Houses on Main Street, Where Art and Community Meet, by Ann Satterthwaite. The book, which charts the histories of many opera houses across the country and their roles in the lives of small town Americans, features our own Red Cloud Opera House on its front cover, which is only appropriate, given the book's close look at how opera houses continue to play a vital economic and cultural role in their communities. Richard Moe, former president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation says, “A century ago, opera houses played a huge role in the vitality of small communities across the country. Now, as Ann Satterthwaite makes clear in her important new book, many of them are bringing new economic and cultural life to those same communities.”

Willa Cather herself was a champion of the opera house. In a letter dated October 27, 1929, Cather shared her love of the opera house with Omaha World-Herald readers:

"When I go about among little Nebraska towns, the thing I miss most is the Opera House. A traveling stock company settled down at the local hotel and thrilled and entertained us for a week.

"That was a wonderful week for children. The excitement began when the advance man came to town and posted the bills on the side of a barn, on the lumberyard fence, in the 'plate glass' windows of drugstores and grocery stores. My playmates and I used to stand for an hour after school, studying every word of those posters; the names of the plays and the nights on which each would be given. After we had decided which were the most necessary to us, there was always the question of how far we could prevail upon our parents. Would they let us go every night, or only on opening and closing nights?

"How good some of those old traveling companies were, and how honestly they did their work and tried to put on a creditable performance. There was the Andrews Opera Company, for example; they usually had a good voice or two among them, a small orchestra and a painstaking conductor, who was also the pianist. What good luck for a country child to hear those tuneful old operas sung by people who were doing their best: The Bohemian Girl, The Chimes of Normandy, Martha, The Mikado. Nothing takes hold of a child like living people."

Ann Satterthwaite is a city planner in Washington, DC and is the author of Going Shopping: Consumer Choices and Community Consequences. She is involved in environmental, cultural, and preservation planning to improve community livability.

Local Glories is available for purchase at the Willa Cather bookstore for $34.95.