Your Town Geneva: Smith Opera House

Your Town Geneva: Smith Opera House

The Smith Opera House is nineteenth century facility considered the center stage of the Finger Lakes.

"When you walk into the Smith Opera House, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced," Chris Woodworth said.

Woodworth is a professor of theatre and board member for the Smith Opera House. She says there’s no place in Geneva like it.

"I get goosebumps when I talk about the history of this theater because this is Geneva’s community center," Woodworth said.

She shares the opera house was established, and primarily funded, by William Smith in 1894. What we see today, however, is a Moorish design by another visionary that opened 37 years later.

"The interior of this theater was designed in the late 1920’s by a man by the name of Victor Rigaumont, who also designed churches, which I think is very interesting because there is a very sacred feel to this space," Woodworth said.

It is now what Woodworth says is an "atmospheric theater."

"When you come in here, you have the experience of being outside while you’re inside, so as you dim the lights here it’s like you’re watching the sun set here in this space," Woodworth explained.

With stars twinkling in the ceiling, she describes this as a magical courtyard feeling.

In the late 1970’s, the building was almost torn down to build a parking lot, but Woodworth says the residents of Geneva helped save it.

"Citizens of Geneva helped pay for this, and it’s the citizens of Geneva that saved this theater time and time again over the years," she said.

They then had the theater restored to Rigaumont’s original design in the 90’s with help from the community.

She says in the almost 124 years this theater has been open, they’ve hosted a wide range of events here: live music, dance, theater, film, community events, and even weddings.

"Every event is made special in this space because this space has been designed and cared for meticulously over the years," Woodworth said.

Some of their most memorable acts: Bruce Springsteen and Frank Zappa.

"The opera house can seat up to 1,400 people, and when we have sold out concerts you feel the energy ricocheting off he walls," Woodworth said.

It’s a venue she fell in love with when she was just five years old, and she encourages everyone who visits the Finger Lakes region to stop by.

"It’s one of the most beautiful theaters I’ve ever set foot in, and I’m a theater professor; I go to the theater all the time," she joked.

Woodworth offers tours of the opera house every Wednesday. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

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