The newly renovated Stephen and Mary Birch North Park Theatre officially opens its doors Oct. 14 with Lyric Opera San Diego's "The Mikado."
The long-awaited renovation took place over the course of three years through the efforts of Lyric Opera San Diego, developer Bud Fischer and the city of San Diego. The theater also received a $25,000 grant from The San Diego Foundation's Arts and Culture Working Group.
The theater was built in 1928 for vaudeville and motion pictures. Designed in the "Moorish Deco" style popular in the 1920s, the North Park Theatre was once one of the most profitable in the Fox West Coast movie theater chain. When the vaudeville houses fell out of fashion, it was rented to a local church, and commercial use was discontinued in 1975. The city of San Diego purchased the theater in 1990 to ensure preservation of the historic landmark.
North Park Theatre has been restored to its original look, with renovations to bring it up to date and turn it into a state-of-the-art performing space. The theater seats nearly 800 and is managed by Lyric Opera San Diego. It is the only theater of its size in San Diego to feature a proscenium arch stage, a full-sized orchestra pit and fly space above the stage, according to officials.
Lyric Opera San Diego will launch its inaugural season in the theater with the most popular of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, "The Mikado," on Oct. 14. The cast is led by Lyric Opera favorites Lisa Archibeque as Yum-Yum and Joseph Grienenberger reprising his role as Ko-Ko. Leon Natker will direct and conduct for the first time in the new theater.
The lighthearted burlesque of Japanese culture is a satire that really targets Victorian England. The son of the Japanese emperor flees his father's imperial court to escape marriage with an elderly woman. Disguised as a traveling musician, he meets and falls in love with a young woman betrothed to her guardian, a cheap tailor. The emperor's son leaves in despair, but there are happy endings in store for the characters in this comic opera.
To mark the opening of the theater and "The Mikado," Lyric Opera San Diego will host "A Taste of North Park," a gala with hors d'oeuvres prior to the opening-night performance and a plated supper afterward, live music and DJs.
"The Mikado" runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., through Oct. 30. The Stephen and Mary Birch North Park Theatre is located at 2891 University Ave. For tickets, call (619) 239-8836 or visit www.lyricoperasandiego.com.
Lyric Opera San Diego continues its season with "Countess Martiza," Nov. 11-20; Rossini's "Cinderella," Feb. 10-19; and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The King and I," March 17-April 2.