Taking in the Pittsburgh Opera at the Benedum Center

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on March 14, 2019.

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When it comes to live performances in the city, Pittsburgh has no shortage of venues and performing arts groups looking to entertain.

During a recent trip down to the Cultural District I was lucky enough to take in a dress rehearsal screening of the Pittsburgh Opera's rendition of Salome. Between enjoying the ambiance of one of our favorite performing arts venues, the Benedum Center, and taking in the show, it was yet another incredible night out in downtown Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Opera at the Benedum Center

Benedum Center in Pittsburgh

Much like nearby Heinz Hall, the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts is special because it was not designed for live performances at all.

Originally known as the Stanley Theatre when it was built in 1928, the Benedum was originally designed to be Pennsylvania's largest movie theater! This venue served this purpose for many decades, and even hosted many of the world's most famous musicians in the 1970s and 80s.

Seats at the Benedum Center Pittsburgh

By the mid-1980s the theater underwent a large restoration and was fully converted to a theater for the performing arts and renamed to the Benedum we know and love today. But its history is still present from the iconic facade highlighting the grandeur of days long-since passed, including a gorgeous marquee that lights up the Cultural District on performance nights.

Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, PA

But let's ignore that for a minute and talk about the reason I visited the Benedum Center- the Pittsburgh Opera's performance of Salome!

Experiencing Oscar Wilde's Salome

Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, PA

Salome is based on the play written by the distinguished Oscar Wilde, and focuses on the answer to one question: just why did Salome want King Herod to deliver John the Baptist's head to her? 

This 100 minute opera, sung in German with English super-titles at the top of the stage, offers one potential answer.

During the course of the opera you follow Salome's (Patricia Racette) infatuation with John the Baptist (Nmon Ford), growing from mere interest in the prisoner to full-on psychotic obsession, leading her to demand his head on a platter so she could give him a long sought after kiss.

Backstage at Salome
I was fortunate enough to get a backstage tour at Salome!

For those who have never attended the opera before, Salome is the perfect introduction for a number of reasons, including that it follows a story most know about, is composed by Richard Strauss, and as far as operas are concerned, is rather short at one hour and forty minutes!

Salome by the Pittsburgh Opera
Salome (Patricia Racette) insists that her stepfather King Herod (Robert Brubaker) live up to his promise, while her mother Herodias (Michaela Martens) looks on approvingly. – Photo by David Bachman Photography

Fun fact- One of the cast members of Salome pointed out that much of Richard Strauss's work in this opera has been re-purposed in many major motion pictures over the years. We'll let you guess which ones they are!

If you've ever wanted to check out the opera but were never quite sure which one is worth attending to get started, I highly recommend you consider Salome.

Behind the Scenes at Salome

Visitors for this opera should note that it contains graphical content including nudity and, obviously, a (hidden below the stage) beheading- so this one may not be appropriate for younger opera goers. Salome is playing at the Benedum Center for four nights on November 5th, 8th, 11th, and 13th, 2016.

The Benedum Offers Much More than the Opera

Benedum Center for the Performing Arts

Although our recent visit to the Benedum Center was to take in a performance of Salome by the Pittsburgh Opera, this performing arts venue is home to many performances throughout the year- including PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Ballet, live concerts, and high profile speakers to name a few!

So whether you want to check out The Nutcracker ballet at Christmas, hear Straight No Chaser, enjoy The King and I, or even hear a high profile speaker like Adam Savage, the Benedum will have a show that you are looking for.

For more shows by the Pittsburgh Opera, check out their full season schedule here. Most shows only have four performances, so get your tickets fast when you see them!

Looking to pick up a ticket to a show but it is already sold out (or you want a better seat)? Check out what is available on StubHub today!

Looking for more performances downtown? Why not check out the Pittsburgh CLO or the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra!

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