The most well-known sight in Newberry , bordering on the iconic, is the Newberry Opera House (1201 McKibben St., 803/276-6264, www.newberryoperahouse.com ). Built at the height of the Victorian era in 1882 for $30,000, this impressive French Gothic structure underwent an extensive, multi-million dollar renovation in the mid-1990s.
During its heyday, the stage was lit by extensive gaslights and hosted America’s best singers and actors in traveling road shows. In the early years of the 20th century it began hosting silent film screenings. A showing of a Thomas Edison “talkie” turned out to be a precursor of sorts, and by the 1920s the Opera House was remodeled as a full-on movie theater.
But as with so many things in America, the postwar era brought change. The Opera House hosted its last movie, The Outlaw, in 1952. In a story from the 1950s and ’60s so familiar to so many older Southern cities, the Opera House was saved from imminent demolition by a grassroots conservation effort. Now owned and operated by the city of Newberry, this 426-seat venue is fully restored and equipped for a more modern entertainment age.
So is there actual opera in the Opera House? Yes, courtesy of the South Carolina Opera Company, the Asheville Lyric Opera, and various traveling companies. They combine to put on a short annual season of classics here at about $40 per ticket, featuring light opera chestnuts such as The Pirates of Penzance and heavy-duty productions like La Boheme.
That’s not all—the Opera House hosts a very full, almost hectic schedule of performances and concerts all throughout the year. Locals come, to be sure, but the Opera House is a draw all over the Midlands .