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Spokane

100 years ago in Spokane: Opera brings out city’s style

Wed., March 15, 2017

Some women “wore boas as large as setting ostriches” to hear the Boston National Grand Opera perform Verdi’s “Aida,” at the Auditorium Theater in Spokane, The Spokesman-Review reported on March 15, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Some women “wore boas as large as setting ostriches” to hear the Boston National Grand Opera perform Verdi’s “Aida,” at the Auditorium Theater in Spokane, The Spokesman-Review reported on March 15, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Spokane’s high society turned out in full evening dress to hear the Boston National Grand Opera perform Verdi’s “Aida,” at the Auditorium Theater.

“The self-sacrificing husbands in dress clothes marched down the aisle behind the ushers and their triumphant fraus settled themselves with many hair pattings and smoothing of ruffles,” wrote society editor Hannah Hinsdale. “The thrifty folk in the gallery, who had considered white gloves necessary for admission, took off their hand coverings and waved them gently to dissipate the odor of gasoline. Some women who flounced into place wore boas as large as setting ostriches.”

Hinsdale noted that there were plenty of “opera widows” in the audience — those whose spouses had balked. The opera widows “came together in groups.”

Some people in the packed house were not exactly operatic veterans.

“A man who sat near me was white with fear,” she wrote. “The only grand opera he had ever heard was ‘La Boheme’ and he had heard that six times. Nothing could persuade him that the announcement of ‘Aida’ was not a mistake. He fully expected the overture to be that of Puccini’s opera.”

As for the opera itself, “seldom has Spokane witnessed opera on such a large scale and the experience was altogether satisfactory.”

From the murder beat: A judge refused to allow J.F. Grant’s attorneys to enter evidence showing that the victim, Walter Layman, was a member of a criminal gang and an ex-convict. However, the judge said he might admit some of that evidence later.



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