‘Three Nights at the Opera’ Set to Showcase Downtown Alma Opera House

Live performances scheduled for Oct. 21, Nov. 19 and Dec. 2 at historic venue.

In this 1953 photo, the Alma College Marching Band is pictured performing in front of the restore... In this 1953 photo, the Alma College Marching Band is pictured performing in front of the restored Wright Leppien Opera House Block.ALMA — Live music, live theatre and silent film. These are the types of performances that were commonly showcased at the Wright Leppien Opera House in downtown Alma during its heyday, at the turn of the 20th century.

Later this fall, those performances are coming back. “Three Nights at the Opera: Historical Recreations of Performances at the Wright Leppien Opera House” is scheduled for Oct. 21, Nov. 19 and Dec. 2 at the Opera House, which has been restored to its former glory in recent years following a devastating fire in 2010.

“Few people in Alma know the history of the Opera House as a major performance venue, and we want to change that,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of History and Political Science Benjamin Peterson, one of the event organizers. “It’s one thing to open a book or a website and read about what the Opera House meant to the city, but it’s another to see it and experience it for ourselves. We hope to bring that experience to the college, and the city as a whole.”

On the first night of the three-day event, Oct. 21, members of the audience will experience some of the music that filled the Wright Opera House in the early 1900s. Student and faculty soloists and the Alma Choirs will recreate historical performances from the Opera House’s golden age of 1900-18. There will be music by George Frideric Handel, Gilbert and Sullivan, Scott Joplin, Giuseppe Verdi and others.

On the second night, Nov. 19, the showcase shifts to plays that were performed at the Opera House from 1900-18. Led by Director of Theatre Scott Mackenzie, the Alma College Theatre Department and Alpha Psi Omega, the theatre honorary, perform a variety of scenes, from Shakespearean classics to the popular theatre of the 1900s.

On the third night, Dec. 2, the audience will watch early silent films screened in Alma between 1916-18, accompanied by live piano from longtime Alma College artist-in-residence Tony Patterson.

Before each performance, Peterson will hold a brief lecture discussing the event that is set to take place, and place it in context with the historical age in which it’s set. In a modern twist on the proceedings, the Alma College History Department will release podcasts, with a new one coming on each night, that explore the college’s relationship to the city of Alma in the early 20th century. The podcasts will be made available at

“Alma College is not just a college that happens to be located in the city of Alma — the two are connected in ways that should be celebrated,” said Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Director of Academic Grants Support Sheryle Dixon, who is also helping organize the event. “These events offer us the opportunity to explore those relationships in an educational way, while having fun at the same time.”

All events start at 7:30 p.m. The events are free and open to the public. Tickets are required and seating is limited. Contact the Heritage Center Box Office at (989) 463-7304 or visit for more information.

In addition to the live performances, video from the events will be available for livestreaming and download on the college’s website.

“Three Nights at the Opera” is possible thanks to a $15,000 grant, which was awarded to Alma College by the nonprofit organization Michigan Humanities Council, which is funded in part by the National Endowment of the Humanities, last year.

For more information, email Peterson and Dixon at

Story published on September 24, 2021