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Napa Valley Opera House
Napa Opera House, 1018-1030 Main St., Napa, CA 9-5-2010 2-32-51 PM.JPG
Location 1018–1030 Main St. on E side, Napa, California
Area 0.1 acres (0.040 ha)
Built 1879
Architect Newsom & Newsom
Architectural style Italianate
NRHP reference No. 73000414
Added to NRHP October 25, 1973

The Napa Valley Opera House is a theatre in Napa, California, it opened on February 13, 1880 with a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore.

At the time, the town had a population of 5,000 people.

Early days

The original owner was George Crowey and Charles Levansaler managed the facility. The building was designed in the Italianate style by Newsom and Newsom (Samuel Newsom and Joseph C. Newsom). Newsom and Newsom were the renowned architects of the 19th century, who also built the Carson Mansion in Eureka, California, in addition to many public and private buildings throughout the State. Construction of the theater featuring a stained glass skylight, brass chandeliers and a curved staircase leading to the balcony started in 1879. The building had stores and restaurants on the first floor while the stage occupied the second and third floor. The floor of the auditorium was uniquely constructed with a flat floor in order to accommodate local dances and pageants. The theater had an advertising curtain where local businesses were promoted.

During the height of vaudeville, the theatre flourished with the presentation of music and variety acts. In 1896 John L. Sullivan fought an exhibition match and John Philip Sousa brought his brass band to the venue. In 1905, following her debut in San Francisco, Luisa Tetrazzini performed on stage and in the same year, Jack London read from his works.

The theatre closed in 1914 due to damage from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the decline of vaudeville, and the advent of film. During the following seventy years, the building was used for a variety of commercial purposes.

Revival and restoration

The structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 however it was not until 1985 that a non-profit group was set up to restore the theatre. In 1997 Robert Mondavi and his wife Margrit issued a challenge grant of $2.2 million to spur the theatre's reconstruction towards the total cost of $13.7 million for the project.


The bottom floor of the building was converted to an intimate venue with seating for 200 people. It was named the Cafe Theatre and it opened in June 2002 with a performance by jazz singer Dianne Reeves.

The larger upstairs venue opened on July 31, 2003 with an opening night performance by Rita Moreno followed by a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, the same show that opened the original venue 123 years prior

The upstairs theatre has seating for an audience of 500, modern lighting and sound system with an orchestra pit large enough for 40 musicians. The venue now hosts several headline entertainment acts every month including plays, musical performances and dance.

In June 2011, the City Council of Napa voted to grant a $1.5 million forgivable loan to help retire the $3.4 million debt remaining on the facility. Funds for the grant came from existing redevelopment funds that had not been committed to other projects. The terms of the loan included several conditions that would benefit the city and its citizens by allowing the city to use the building for up to 24 days per year at cost and requiring the facility to be rented twice per year to nonprofit organizations at a discounted rate. By 2011, the facility was booking over 100 events per year with a goal of increasing this number to 200 events.

In August 2011, the Board of Directors hired Peter Williams as the new Executive / Artistic Director. He came to Napa from Yoshi's jazz club in Oakland where he was Artistic Director from May 1999 until July 2011. Peter Williams left City Winery in May 2014 to move back to booking Yoshi's San Francisco, which was sold to new owners

After a $2.5 Million renovation, Michael Dorf's 300 seat venue, City Winery, opened on April 10, 2014. City Winery ceased operating the venue in late 2015.

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