Napa Valley Opera House still making history

By Jim Harrington

I can just feel the history.

That, perhaps more than anything else, is what I like about the Napa Valley Opera House. Just kicking back in my seat, waiting for the show to begin, I really feel connected to the venue's past.

And what a past it's been, stretching back more than 130 years. The opera house, located in downtown Napa, opened Feb. 13, 1880, with a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's “H.M.S. Pinafore.”

Over the next few decades, the opera house hosted many noteworthy events, ranging from a performance by John Philip Sousa and his brass band to an exhibition match by the first heavyweight boxing champion of the world, John L. Sullivan, to, reportedly, a reading by famed Bay Area author Jack London.

The opera house closed in 1914 — right about the time when the Boston Braves were defeating the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series — and the doors remained locked for about 90 years.

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