When you visit Aspen, you hear about the Wheeler Opera House ― about how everyone is going there for an upcoming show. Or, about how everyone has been there for a memorable performance. Or, about how everyone is planning on going there soon. Make the Wheeler Opera House a part of your Aspen experience by attending exciting live performances, informative lectures, and screenings of inspiring films.
In the late nineteenth century, the Wheeler Opera House was a gift to the city of Aspen, and to this day, it continues to be one, providing everyone who walks through its doors with captivating, year-round entertainment. Jerome B. Wheeler, who also built the Hotel Jerome, ordered the construction of the Wheeler Opera House, which took place from June 1888 - April 1889, with the Grand Opening Night on April 23, 1889.
According to the Wheeler Opera House website, the Wheeler was “...a gift to the community: a public hall on its top floors with a fine proscenium stage, seats in rich Moroccan leather, and an azure ceiling studded with silver stars.”
Sadly, despite everything he gave to the community, from the grand Hotel Jerome to the Wheeler Opera House, Jerome Wheeler fell into bankruptcy in 1893 ― the year that saw the end of the silver mining boom in the Western United States, following the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act.
Aspen’s “Quiet Years”
By the end of the 19th century, Aspen’s population declined from a bustling city of around 10,000, to a small town of fewer than 1,000. This period, between the early 1900s thru the late 1940s, was known as Aspen’s “Quiet Years”. Silver mining was a thing of the past, and the skiing industry was far in the city’s future. During this time period, the valley was home primarily to ranchers and farmers.
The Paepcke Renaissance
In 1945, a wealthy, influential Chicago couple, Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, visited Aspen. They saw Aspen’s potential and envisioned a city that embraced a balance of mind, body, and spirit, which became known as “The Aspen Idea.” With the Aspen Idea as the goal, and the dedication of the Paepckes and their friends, Aspen experienced a revival which began in 1949, with a cultural festival that celebrated the 200th anniversary of the great poet Goethe. The Goethe Bicentennial Convocation and Music Festival brought together great minds, writers and musicians from all walks of life. From the 1949 Goethe Bicentennial, the Aspen Music Festival was formed and the Aspen Institute was established in 1950. Part of this cultural revival also included the renovation of the Wheeler Opera House by the Paepckes with Herbert Bayer as architect. The first renovation effort took place in the late 1940s. The trio renovated the Wheeler Opera House again in the 1960s.
Though the Paepckes made a genuine effort to revive the Wheeler, their attempts didn’t address the building’s aging structure. In the mid-1970s, the Aspen Music Festival’s corporate arm ― the Music Associates of Aspen ― decided it was time for a structural renovation.
In 1976, the Wheeler Opera House became a historic landmark, and had its Grand Re-Opening on May 23, 1984. In the ensuing years, the Wheeler has experienced a number of additional renovations. Most recently, the entire balcony was renovated and restored.
Since that day in 1984, the Wheeler Opera House has continued to be a vital part of the Aspen community. In fact, the Wheeler offers entertainment almost every day of the year from top entertainers.
Past performers include:
- The Beach Boys
- Lewis Black
- David Brenner
- Dave Chappelle
- Margaret Cho
- John Denver
- Renée Fleming
- Goldie Hawn
- Lyle Lovett
- Bill Maher
- John Oates
- Lily Tomlin
The Wheeler Opera House hosts all varieties of entertainment. Expect to catch everything from schoolchildren putting on a play, to your favorite comedian performing stand up, an up-and-coming musical group, or exciting magic and circus shows. The Wheeler also plays host to screenings of films that you can’t see anywhere else, through annual festival presentations by Aspen Film and the Wheeler Film Society.
Their annual programs and events include:
- MountainSummit: Mountainfilm in Aspen
- 5Point Film Festival
- Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour
- Aspen Laugh Festival
- The Met: Live in HD screenings
- Aspen Historical Society free tours
- Presentations by Aspen Film—Aspen Film Festival, Shortsfest, Academy Screenings
- Aspen Institute and Aspen Ideas Festival events
- Aspen Music Festival events and opera performances
- Aspen Center for Physics Café and public lectures
- Aspen Words events, like Winter Words
- Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performances
- The Meeting ski movie festival
- Performances by Theatre Aspen School
- Special holiday season events to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve
Visit the Wheeler Opera House, Stay with Us
The Aspen Square Condominium Hotel is a short walk to the Wheeler Opera House. Stay at our downtown Aspen hotel, and experience a magical evening out on the town. Our convenient location allows you to dine at a favorite Aspen restaurant, attend an event at the Wheeler, and, at the end of the evening, enjoy a leisurely stroll back to the Aspen Square.
Make your reservation today. Call 1-800-862-7736, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.