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Orillia Opera House Theatre

Contact(s)

Darcy Hoover
Culture Enquiries
Manager of Marketing
50 Andrew Street South, Suite 300, Orillia, ON L3V 7T5

Phone: 705-325-4283
Fax: 705-325-5178

Map to this Location
Email Contact
View City of Orillia Website

Orillia Opera House Photo with Logo


In the very heart of Orillia sits a fairy tale building,
and inside that building, legends are born.

Since 1895 the Orillia Opera House has been bringing the best in local, national and international talent to its stages.

The Opera House, known for its fine acoustics and has featured such artists as the Marx Brothers, Glenn Gould, Oscar Peterson, k.d. lang, Mickey Rooney, Dan Hill, Liona Boyd, Blue Rodeo, George Canyon, Paul Brandt, Ron James, Manteca, Lighthouse, Serena Ryder, The Stampeders and our own hometown boy, Gordon Lightfoot.

From performances by living legends to our own home grown talent; from community theatre to our popular professional summer theatre series, there is always something happening that will entertain, educate and inspire. 

Come to Downtown Orillia and enjoy dinner and a show; there is something happening all year long.  See what's on at the Opera House at orilliaoperahouse.ca.

 

Performers


Rent the Opera House for Your Occasion

Large or small, casual or corporate - The Orillia Opera House offers a central downtown location, perfect for the most versatile production, meeting, presentation, screening, event, lecture or class.

The Orillia Opera House Gordon Lightfoot Auditorium, Studio Theatre, foyer and reception area are available for live entertainment, television and movie shoots, radio broadcasts, seminars, lectures, slide shows, recitals, competitions, product launches, presentations, weddings, seminars, graduations and meetings.

To rent the Opera House contact the General Manager at gm@orilliaoperahouse.ca or 705-325-2095 or visit orilliaoperahouse.ca.

 

Orillia Opera House Gordon Lightfoot Auditorium

 

History of the Opera House

For over 117 years, the City has dreamed, laughed, wept and fought inside the Orillia Opera House. Many of the City's defining moments have taken place under its landmark twin spires.

Not long after Orillia became a village, residents began to think about moving the market from its location near the waterfront. After a few years of debate, a landowner named Goldwin Smith agreed to donate a half-acre lot on the northwest corner of Mississaga and West Streets. In return, the Village had to clear Mississaga Street West of stumps so Smith could subdivide another parcel of his land up the street.

Some people in the Village wanted nothing more than a good large shed and a few stalls put up in the market for farmers. But the Village Councilors wanted a new Town Hall to replace the Temperance Hall and a proper lock-up for the rowdies that plagued their lumber town. Arguments over the building of the hall delayed its opening, and Council finally had its first meeting in the new hall on August 7, 1874. This Town Hall and lock-up served well from 1874 to 1877. Council again decided something grander was needed for both the shed and town hall, and after a few false starts, tenders were called for, based on plans prepared by the Toronto architectural firm of Gordon and Halliwell and the Opera House was completed in 1895. It cost taxpayers $25,000 and held the Council Chamber, auditorium, City Hall offices, market stalls and eventually the lock-up.

The Opera House, described as "the finest building for corporation purposes of any town in Ontario", became an immediate source of pride for Orillia. The auditorium had 905 seats with an exquisite wrap around balcony common to the formal Opera Houses of Europe, which might have contributed to its name.

Historical Photos


Unfortunately, fire broke out on July 6, 1915 and destroyed most of the building. The last of the debentures for the building had just been paid and Orillians did not want to pay much more for a new theatre. Council had to get the taxpayers' approval to borrow large amounts of money in those days. The Toronto firm of Burke, Horwood and White was retained to prepare plans for the reconstruction. Council and the Board of Trade pushed for a By-law authorizing a $50,000 debenture to rebuild the Opera House, but residents voted it down. It was too much to spend on a theatre in times of war. The next year's Council tried for a smaller plan, costing taxpayers $35,000, and it was approved.

The work was completed in 1917. The tall tower on the south side was not rebuilt. The Council Chamber was relocated on the west. A new lobby and stairs were added on the east between the two towers, and restrooms were added to the ground floor. The roof and design of the Opera House were changed. The wrap around "Opera House" balcony was replaced with a deeper balcony facing the stage. The dressing rooms were moved downstairs so the stage occupied the entire width of the building. A small, shallow orchestra pit and exterior backstage hoist were added.

The 700 seat auditorium was also a movie house from the 20's until the late 50's. It was a favourite place on a Saturday for a kid to spend an afternoon for a quarter.

In 1958 a new entrance was constructed on the east end of the building and many attempts to bring the front of the building back to its original beauty have yet to be realized. Renovations in the 1980s have brought upgrades to the public areas with a public elevator and air conditioning. Remedial structure work was undertaken, smoke pockets were installed and a lighting bridge was added to the auditorium.

Studio Theatre


In 1985 a Renovation Master Plan was conceived for the Orillia Opera House by Lett/Smith Architects. Since 1985, renovation, reuse, repair and maintenance projects have taken place at the theatre including the conversion of the former council chambers in 1997 to a small 104 seat theatre. The farmers' market has also recently vacated the premises leaving areas that can now be utilized for Opera House functions.

On October 18, 1997 the Orillia Opera House renamed its auditorium in honour of its most famous son. Gordon Lightfoot has performed here since he was a child and has continued the tradition of playing here, usually as a benefit, to the present day.

In 2012 the City of Orillia engaged +VG (The Ventin Group Ltd.) Architects to prepare a conservation plan for the Orillia Opera House. While +VG Architects were gathering information the City of Orillia went ahead with repairs to the foundation, replacement of the slate roofs on the turrets and the addition of a freight elevator. Completion of the elevator was in 2014 which also saw +VG Architects' conservation plan presented and received by Council Committee as information. 

For more information on the restoration, view the Orillia Opera House Conservation Plan

Managed by the City's Parks, Recreation and Culture Department. The Orillia Opera House continues to inspire those that are great and those that will be, while renovations and capital projects continue to keep the fairy tale alive.