One of the best things about traveling is that wonderful encounter with an old friend or a new one, and Rick and I both managed to maximize that one! The first occasion occurred in Geneva. While Rick was working with a client, I had the opportunity to connect with my friend Cathy, who last year moved from San Francisco to upstate New York.
We hadn't seen each other in 18 years, so it was fun to touch base in person. Cathy met me at the hotel and it was back to Belhurst for breakfast and some photos. It was fun seeing this spot in the day time!
Then we went off to Ventosa winery for a bit of tasting. (I don't usually do wine tasting right after breakfast but we stayed at Belhurst a very long time catching up on life!)
Our time together wasn't finished though. One of the crown jewels in Geneva is the Smith Center, a beautifully restored theatre located in the city's downtown.
I am a sucker for restored theatres and this one didn't disappoint. Neither did the Smith's business manager, Jessica, who took us on an unscheduled tour of the auditorium.
Designed in the Richardson-Romanesque style, the Smith Opera House opened in October, 1894 with "The Count of Monte Cristo," starring James O'Neill, whose son, Eugene, would become one of America's best-known playwrights. (Later stars in the early days included George M. Cohan, John Phillip Sousa, and actress Ellen Terry.)
In 1929 it was renovated as an "atmospheric" movie palace, combining Baroque and Victorian decor with twinkling stars on the ceiling, Like many theatres of the period, it fell into decline in the 1950s, a victim of home television viewing and eventually mall multi-plexes. It closed in 1978 with many structural problems including a leaking ceiling and failed heating system.
But by the 1980s, a group had organized to save the theatre, which was painstakingly restored to its original 1894 facade and 1931 atmospheric interior. The complicated and expensive restoration began in the 1990s and now the theatre welcomes traveling musical acts, theatre and other performances, along with the occasional film.
The auditorium seats 1,500 people. Along the sides are some splendid gold panels and sculpture.
The overall look is dramatic, as one might expect from a theatre and the details are exquisite.
I was particularly fond of the sculptured busts in the side entry ways.
Here's a closer look at some of the gold work.
Even the ends of the seats sported the gold medallions.
I was equally impressed with the box office in the front lobby.
Jessica snapped Cathy and me goofing it up there!
After leaving the Smith and stopping in a couple of the town's shops, it was time to say farewell to Cathy and head toward Massachusetts. A toast to old friends! And yes, we've something else to anticipate in Massachusetts besides again seeing Rick's brother and sister-in-law. Another reunion with a long-missed friend would wait there -- this time for Rick!
And on a completely unrelated note, I am currently contributing to a wonderful new online magazine, Modern Creative Life. Check out my article "What's Next" HERE.
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