DMMO opening - DSC_5399.JPG

Visitors enjoyed the quiet of the atrium addition to the Carnegie Library, home to the Lauridsen Opera Center and Des Moines Metro Opera, which celebrated its grand opening with a community open house Sunday.

With the snip of the scissors, Michael Egel cut the ribbon and Indianola residents could take a step forward into the new Lauridsen Opera Center.

But for many, it also a step backward into Indianola’s Carnegie Library, home of the public library until 1984, and since then, home to Des Moines Metro Opera.

“It’s an incredibly inspiring resurrection of this building for contemporary use,” said Ev Laning, a long-time Indianola resident, as he visited Sunday. “It’s nice to preserve some of the timeless qualities of the Carnegie libraries.”

A ribbon cutting and community open house Sunday afternoon capped a week of activities for DMMO that included the opening of two operas, a gala celebration for donors and the unveiling of a new DSM magazine cover.

“It’s been a real effort of love, to commemorate not just the historic building to Indianola, but now it’s become a real gallery to Des Moines Metro Opera, as well,” said Egel, the artistic and general director of the company.

When the opera moved into the building in 1984, they made few changes, simply putting offices in the loft overseeing some of the book shelves, storing supplies on shelves that remained, and using the offices as spaces as they found them.

Six years ago, the company conducted a thorough examination of the building, checking its structural integrity, and its ability to be the headquarters of a world-class opera company into the 21st century.

The result was a $3 million restoration of the original building, along with the addition of an 1,800-foot atrium to the back with performance, meeting and display space. More than $1 million of the money raised came from Indianola and Warren County, said Egel.

“I think that people have really wonderful memories of this space,” said Timothy McMillin, development director for the company, as he greeted guests Sunday. “So it’s nice that it’s been opened up and repurposed.”

Margaret Vernon of Indianola said she was glad the building was remaining and was surprised at her reaction to the addition.

“I was opposed to that addition until I saw it,” she said, indicating the light-filled atrium at the back of the building. “But for some reason, it works.”

“When you came in before you just felt like kind of cramped and closed,” said Nancy Baethke, who said she moved to Indianola about the time construction started on the public library that now stands at the corner of B Street and Boston Avenue. “It was the big thing for everybody to come help move books.”

“I love it, it’s gorgeous, it’s classic and yet modern,” said Emily Schwery, who said she had never seen the old building.

Brenda Easter, Indianola chamber director, said her favorite part of the renovation is the way that the history of both the building and the opera run throughout.

“Through the photos, through the quotes from the various organizations and magazines, the artwork, the costumes, it pulls it all together so you can see really what an opera is all about,” said Easter. “It’s not just about the singing. They used every single corner to tell part of that story.”

“It’s a beautiful statement about the arts in general,” said McMillin. “The idea of seeing historic old things through a new lens, and that’s what we do with opera performances all the time, reinvent old, historic things.”

(1) comment


Just toured the Lauridsen Opera Center. It is beautiful and something new and something old works wonderfully. Of course seeing your Grandsons in a “Billy Budd” poster makes it even more special!

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