On the 13th of December 1955, the people of Cork awoke to the news that their beloved opera house had been destroyed by a fire. The opera house was a place of and for the people and its destruction affected them on an emotional level.
On the night of Monday the 12 December 1955, the opera house in Cork was destroyed by fire. A calamitous event in itself, the destruction of the Old Opera house affected the people on an emotional level as well. The burning is equivocated in the minds of Cork people with that of the assassination of John F Kennedy -every one remembers where they were on that wet and stormy winter's night.
The theatre was a place of and for the people, from the fashionable stalls and boxes to The Gods accessed by the iron steps on the North side of the building, where the patrons arrived as early as possible to get the cheap seats, known as 'Early Doors'.
A place where the opera stars of the day were feted by the ordinary working class citizens and would be paraded through the streets of the city like returning All Ireland Champions. And where the audience would follow each tenors singing on stage and woe to him who missed the top note, because invariably, someone in the Gods would toss it back to him.
Rehearsals were in full swing for the Christmas pantomime when fire broke out, no-one inside was aware of how dangerous the situation had become and luckily no-one was injured in the outbreak which consumed the building very quickly.
Within days the groundswell of support for 'Dopra House', ensured that a new theatre would rise phoenix like, from the ashes and 10 years later the New Opera house opened its doors, to a loyal public.
Producer Alf McCarthy, through interview and archive, remembers the traumatic night in Cork when the Old Opera House died and the Early Doors were no more.