The Civic Opera House

20 N Upper Wacker Dr #400 Chicago

Architectural Gems/The Civic Opera House
Chicago Scene
Written By Chicago Scene

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The home of the Lyric Opera of Chicago since 1993, The Civic Opera House had its first season in 1929, the year after it was built. It is the second-largest opera auditorium in not just the United States, but all of North America, only smaller than New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.

The complex that composes it is a 45-story office tower with 22-story sides, giving the back facade its distinctive chair shape, occasionally called “Insull’s Throne” after the designer. This building also inspired the opera house in the film Citizen Kane, leading people to spread rumors that Insull’s life was similar to Charles Foster Kane’s. That is not true, however, as Insull’s wife was not an opera singer, so he did not design the opera house for her. The design of the building is also reflective of its status both as a commerce location and one of culture, due to its mixed use. The portico, for example, is in following with architectural styles for opera houses.

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The opera house has 3,563 seats and in 1996, they were all refurbished and the 31 boxes in the mezzanine level were enlarged by 18 inches. The theater was also fully repainted and the curtain was replaced.

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