In 1999 L.J. and Chee Chee Gielen purchased Dixie Hardware which housed the abandoned Grand Opera House. In 2004 they donated the building to the Opera House Association, a 501-(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. Since then it has been the dream of the Gielens and the Board of Directors, to restore Crowley’s beautiful little theater and to use the venue to present performances of superior quality to its audiences.
The project took years---much longer than originally expected---but last Friday’s soft opening proved that the wait was well justified. The event was sold out, community support was overwhelming and a fabulous evening lay in store for all who were there.
Kim Gielen Gattle, executive director of the Opera House and daughter of the benefactors, positively beamed as she warmly greeted patrons. Oohs and aahs could be heard and wide-eyed amazement could be seen as individuals got their first glimpse of the magnificently restored opera house.
The evening began with personal tours of the facility and a wine and cheese social in the beautifully restored ballroom. The main event, an outstanding concert performance by Irma Thomas, a Louisiana legend, brought the crowd to their feet. No one wanted the night to end.
“The Opera House is a very welcoming place and I think they did a fantastic job restoring it,” said Delores Nutt, attendee of the soft opening. “Also, the show by Irma Thomas provided continuous entertainment and I look forward to attending upcoming events held at the Opera House,” Nutt raved.
Upcoming events to be held at the Opera House include:
Wednesday, October 8--Sousa Visits the Opera House-Lafayette Concert Band stages a concert in the style of John Philip Sousa, the most influential band leader in the early 20th century.
Tuesday, October 21--Vladimir Zaltsev, referred to as “a pianist to be remembered,” who began mastering the piano at age six, will perform. He is known for his unique mix of light classical favorites and popular selections presented in a lighthearted and informal way, which is very rare.
Monday, December 15--Freddy Cole’s Christmas- The brother of Nat King Cole, Freddy has some of the most suave, elegant, formidable and articulate vocals in the jazz community. Cole also plays guitar and upright bass.
Tuesday, February 17--the Opera House presents “An Evening of Broadway”, which features Corey Trahan, Lisa McCalmon and Naomi Cordill, three Louisiana artists, who will perform an hour and a half concert featuring songs from Broadway shows, both current and time-honored revivals.
Thursday, May 7--The Dust Poets visit the Opera House. This group is a five-piece acoustic folk-pop group, with deep roots in the Canadian prairie. The band pokes fun at themselves and the world around them, and the members are well-known for their infectious spirit, powerful stage presence and harmony singing.