It’s Tabor time |

It’s Tabor time

Erik Vienneau

Music fans who think things get crazy at 8150 or State Bridge during the summer music onslaught should take a trip back in time to Leadville’s Tabor Opera House’s. That wild-west craziness makes today’s concert chaos seem like child’s play.The Tabor Opera House which features an impressive music lineup for both young and old this summer – opened to the delight of miners and aristocrats and their wives on Nov. 20, 1879. Back then, Leadville’s Chestnut Street was mostly banks for those who struck it rich in the silver mines. State Street (now Second) was packed with bawdy houses (brothels), saloons and gambling emporiums. Just a few days into Tabor’s existence, a show had to compete with a double hanging directly across the street.”Not many showed after the gruesome hangings,” Tabor tour guide Carolyn Popovich says. “The theater manager at the time said that despite the deadly opening week that in the many years to come ‘the theater would be packed.'”He was right.The 850-plus-seat theater, which at the time was hailed as the best playhouse west of New York City, was packed with poor miners as well as wealthy businessmen. Those who didn’t strike it rich sat in the upper balcony’s uncomfortable, but cheap, wooden benches, while the rich sat close to the elaborately decorated stage in plush upholstered chairs complete with fresh flowers on tables in front of them. The theater has aged through the decades, but a night at Tabor still stirs emotions of years of legendary entertainment.”You can still feel the excitement from past shows,” Popovich says, trying to describe what makes the ghostly theater so special.Of course the shows were packed, Popovich says. “This was like going to the Met (Metropolitan) Theater in New York back then. Plus, it was the only respectable entertainment the miners could bring there wives to.”The lineup didn’t hurt either. Houdini (who used the hidden trap door still visible at center stage), John Philip Sousa, Oscar Wilde, and Anna Held all graced the Tabor stage. A full circus complete with elephants and lions once stomped across the stage, while a life-size stage coach and team of horses once whirled past audience members for a production of Ben Hur.The tour of back-stage dressing rooms, a view of props and stage backdrops and the antique ticket counter where a silver coins once bounced is worth the trip to Leadville. But, this summer’s seven music and stage acts are yet another reason to head up to the historic mining town just an hour away on Highway 24.The line-up kicks off Saturday, June 8, with the world-beat sounds of Jaka, while later in the summer funk fans can freak out to Portland, Ore.’s Porterhouse. More mature audiences will be pleased to find sax-quartet Burlap Sax and the patriotic flavors of the 101st Army National Guard Band both on this summer’s slate. Artsy and theater types can hit a night of musical poetry with Karen Mills, while the season caps off on Labor Day Weekend with The Ballad of Baby Doe.That opera drew more than 1,000 theater buffs last season and is the perfect match for the Tabor Opera house. It’s the story of Horace Tabor’s second wife and the creation of the theater. Call (719) 486-8409 for tickets.2002 Tabor Opera House performance scheduleSaturday, June 8Jaka, 8 p.m.Friday, June 21The 101st Army National Guard Band, 7 p.m.Saturday, July 13Burlap Sax, 7 p.m.Friday, July 19Karen Mills, 7 p.m.Thursday, Aug. 8Porterhouse, 8 p.m.Thursday, Aug. 15Casey Neill Trio, 8 p.m.Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 30, 31The Ballad of Baby Doe, 7 p.m.Sept. 1The Ballad of Baby Doe, 2:30 p.m.

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