An envisioning . . . . . . the height of the season and the interval beginning in New Orleans’ French opera house . .. . .1895 or so . .


Oh to go back and be here.

The violinist playing the last few bars of a scene as whispers from the score of the end of act I of Saint Saens’ opera “Samson et Dalila” drift through. The thump of the parquet seats bouncing toward their seat backs and fans snapping open as ladies take their escorts’ arms and head towards the back of the theater heading towards the doors as the lights go up like moths to a brilliant flame. Couples from the loges grilles above filtering back toward the lobby stair. Ladies who are enceinte along with ones in mourning frocks and ladies of the evening in their garish satins escaping from their screened boxes way up towards the stage.

The interval having just begun and the next act in a bit. The champagne ladies almost done setting up.

Gentlemen’s lounge belching cigar smoke whenever the door opens. Ladies streaming into the lounge across the way in search of smelling salts and hoping for a gentler relace of their corset strings from the maid in the little curtained room in the back before they swoon.

A good visit with a friend and enough time for a second flute. A lady who must have had three waltzing in the corner with a gentleman who does not appear to be her husband judging by the kissing.

Another ten minutes and the lights dimming and rising again. Everyone dashing back and the morocco leather covered doors closed again with the last few arriving too late to be admitted and reduced to standing on tiptoe peeking through the windows towards the stage until the ushers take pity as the orchestra swells and the soprano’s next aria begins and let them in.

Image: French Opera house, Bourbon and Toulouse Streets, New Orleans, Louisiana. Built in 1859 it was destroyed in a 1919 fire. This is a view of the lobby. I found it on the Facebook page The New Orleans Culture but have only been able to trace it back to this website which has other images of the opera house but with this being the only one of the lobby.

the theatre provided screened boxes for pregnant ladies, ladies who were in mourning and ladies-of-the-evening .Lobby view. French Opera House. Bourbon and Toulouse Streets. Louisiana. N

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