December 25, 1902: Opening night at Duluth’s new Metropolitan Opera House

On this day in Duluth in 1902, the Metropolitan Opera House opened at 616 West Michigan Street. On that Christmas day opening, the Andrews Opera Company performed the opera “Martha,” the same opera that was performed at the opening of Duluth’s Grand Opera House in 1883. Designed by noted Duluth architect John J. Wagenstein, the Metropolitan was constructed in just fourteen weeks by Duluth contractors Pearson & Fawcett and was built to hold more seats than Duluth’s Lyceum Theatre, which stood just a block away. The stage of the main curtain was decorated with a scene of Italy’s Bay of Naples, and the theatre featured modern electric lighting and “all of the latest appliances of that nature.” So many people attended the first evening performance that there weren’t enough streetcars available to take all Woodland residents home—so they commandeered a streetcar and did not let it move until another was sent to take them home (Read the full story of that event here.) Despite a variety of quality acts, the Metropolitans’s location doomed its success. Located in the heart of the Bowery, the Metropolitan failed to attract well-healed theatre patrons, and most people residing in the neighborhood could not afford to pay admission. By 1907 it had ceased to book legitimate theatre and became a burlesque house. it was destroyed in 1908 to make room for the new Soo Line Depot. Read about other lost Duluth theaters here.

Duluth’s short-lived Metropolitan Opera House. (Image: Duluth Public Library)