There is a little piece of Dunfermline far, far away in twinning town Sarasota, Florida. It’s the story of an Opera House that never held an opera until it had travelled 4256 miles west!
Dunfermline’s residents have always enjoyed entertainment, music and performance, you can find out more about the music in the FREE Dunfermline Soundtrack Tour.
In 1900, self-starter promoter and architect Peter Roy Jackson drew up plans for a lavish theatre, and they called it Dunfermline Opera House and Hippodrome when open on 11 September 1903.
It was on the now lost Reform Street, just opposite Coady’s Bar, as you look east beyond the car park beside Fire Station Creative.
Opera never appeared but other entertainment took over. Movies soon appeared and they needed to add a screen and projector, two World Wars reduced the opportunities of audiences and finally the rise of households owning their own televisions resulted in closure in 1955.
When a new road layout was approved in 1982 to create Kingsgate Shopping Centre and Andrew Carnegie Drive dual carriageway, Reform Street where the empty Opera House stood was removed from the map. It was recommended to preserve the craftsmanship of the interior from a remodelling which happened in 1920. They had reopened as a variety theatre and plasterwork was in Louis XV style. It was carefully packed away like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Four years later a group from Asolo Repertory Theater, Sarasota were in touch looking for a pre-made opera theatre, what are the chances?
In 1989, they bought the pieces and reassembled them and it is now called Mertz Theatre which hosts opera and other musical work, next to another imported theatre from Italy. You can see a photo on the Mertz Theater link below.
Dunfermline Opera House Cut Down – Talisman Films (YouTube)
The Dunfermline Opera House Exhibition 2000 (YouTube)