|The Auditorium a year after it opened (Note that just to the south the residence that |
the Auditorium Hotel would replace is still standing.)
On this date in 1889 the first opera, Romeo and Juliet, was held in Chicago’s brand new Auditorium Theater, which had been dedicated the preceding night. One of the great sopranos in this country’s opera history, Adelina Patti, sang the part of Juliet. Patti had only five or six more years left in her long career, and the critics were not kind.
Wrote The Tribune music critic, “It is a matter of fact, however, that she does sing flat at times. As regards the matter of warmth, which is so essential for the proper interpretation of the music assigned to Juliet, and so imperatively demanded for the delineation of the ardent character of the heroine, Patti never did possess it, so that even were her vocalization absolutely faultless there would still be left much to be desired.” [Chicago Tribune, December 11, 1889]
it didn’t matter. It seemed as if every member of the ranking social order in the city was in attendance. “It was a magnificent crowd,” wrote The Tribune. “Every one was in full dress, even those standing up. It was the most brilliant audience probably ever seen in Chicago.”
And The Auditorium was the most brilliant thing that Chicago had ever seen. As the President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison, said in his remarks at the dedication ceremony of the previous evening, “I stand in the grandest hall upon the face of the civilized earth. Oratory never had such a magnificent scene . . . I wish this building . . . to be a light set on a hill, shining into human hearts to make them happier and better; shining out upon bad laws that good ones may replace them; shining out upon the public taste and teaching how it may be improved; shining in the homes of the poor and showing how them may be made better; shining into the homes of the rich and revealing the grace of the homely virtues; and wherever it shines, on high or low, on rich or poor, on hearts or homes, carrying healing on its wings.”
These days Chicago can use more words like those.