The Peabody Opera House, formerly known as the Kiel Opera House, is a historic performing arts center in St. Louis, Missouri. The 3,500-seat complex was built in 1934 and originally was named the Municipal Auditorium. Over the next six decades it hosted many notable events including a campaign rally for President Harry Truman and concerts by the Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack. The Opera House closed in 1991 and sat idle for two decades. It reopened as the Peabody Opera House in 2011 after a $79 million restoration. Today the Opera House hosts concerts, musicals, lectures, and comedy acts.
Development of the
Opera House began in 1923 when St. Louis voters approved a massive $87.4
million bond, the largest bond in the nation at that time, to modernize the
city with projects including a Municipal Auditorium complex. The complex opened
in 1934 and included a 3,500-seat opera house and a 9,300-seat convention hall.
The first performance held in the auditorium was a production of the opera
Aida, on April 21, 1934. Many of the events from the Opera House’s early days
included operas, musicals, symphonies, and performances from local acts. In
1943 the Municipal Auditorium was renamed the Kiel Opera House, and the
Convention Hall renamed the Kiel Auditorium, after former mayor Henry W. Kiel,
who had spearheaded the project to build the complex.
The Kiel Opera House
hosted many notable celebrities during its heyday. On October 30, 1948,
President Harry Truman held his last campaign speech, just four days before
winning reelection. On June 20, 1965 Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy
Davis Jr. held a benefit concert broadcast on closed-circuit television, and
hosted by Johnny Carson. On July 11, 1978 the Rolling Stones held a highly-anticipated
concert in the Opera House; tickets had sold out in seventy-five minutes following
a single radio advertisement. There were performances by other major
entertainers such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong, Bob
Hope, Johnny Cash, Judy Garland, Benny Goodman, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Bob
Dylan, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and The Eagles. From 1934 to 1968 the
Opera House was the home of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. It was also used
for graduation ceremonies for an estimated 400,000 high school and college
students in the local area.