Lyric Opera House
Lyric Opera House
On the evening of October 31,1894, Emil Paur led the Boston Symphony Orchestra into the prelude to "Die Meistersinger von Nurenberg." It was the opening number of the gala concert celebrating Baltimore's new "Music Hall." Nellie Melba was to crown the evening with her rendition of Handel's "Sweet Bird" aria. Mr. T. Henry Randall, architect for the building joined the throngs backstage to be congratulated by Madame Melba on the hall's perfect acoustics.
No one could have had the foresight to predict the many and varied sounds to ring through this building during its first 75 years. Just 11 years later, Mike Sullivan of Boston and Joe Gans fought a draw at the Lyric Theater. Gans, the lightweight champion suffered an injured left eye which eventually ended his career. In 1905, Baltimoreans were treated to a first exhibition of cooking by electricity at the Food Show in the Lyric.
Also in 1905, Ignace Jan Paderewski gave his third Baltimore performance. Enrico Caruso came to the Lyric with the Metropolitan Opera Company's production of "Marta." Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and her party came from Washington to hear the celebrated tenor.
The list of speakers who have taken the spotlight in the Lyric is a chapter in American history. It includes William Jennings Bryan, Roald Amundsen, Richard E. Byrd, Charles A. Lindbergh, Calvin E. Coolidge, Amelia Earhart, Clarence Darrow, Will Rogers, and Herbert Hoover. Among the great names... the world-famed performers... there appear little known personages out of the past. Gus Schoenlein (known as Americus) wrestled with George Hackenschmit, the world's champion, in the Lyric late in 1906.
In 1908, Mr. Frederick Gottlieb offered the Lyric for sale to the city for the new Polytechnic Institute. (The offer was not accepted.)
Two years after its opening, Mr. Kilpatrick rode his two-wheeler bike down a flight of 150 steps as part of a bike festival. On summer evenings, the theater was decorated in beer garden fashion and polkas filled the air. General William Booth and Aimee Semple McPherson found converts in Lyric audiences, as did Col. Robert Ingersoll who lectured on "How to Reform Mankind" in 1898.
Other great artists were to testify the to the auditorium's superb acoustics. Conducters such as Pierre Monteux, Charles Munch, Eugene Ormandy, Fritz Reiner, Leopold Stokowski, Sir Thomas Beecham, and Erich Leinsdorf have complimented the exceptional sound qualities. Leopold Stokowski said, "May I tell you that I and my orchestra enjoy playing to the audience in this hall more than to any audience in this country." Sir Thomas Beecham rated it first in America.