History of Colorado’s Performing Arts

Our state has a rich history of performing arts, from the large venues of the Denver area to the hundreds of small theaters and opera houses that settlers hoped would make their small mining towns “respectable.”  You can read about Colorado’s performing arts in several publications from the Colorado Historical Society and the University Press of Colorado, available from our library:

Colorado Heritage, the magazine of the Colorado Historical Society (now History Colorado), has published numerous articles on the history of Colorado’s performing arts.  Some highlights include:

  • “A Forgotten Theatrical Past:  The Federal Theatre Project in Denver,” Nov/Dec 2010
  • “Miss Helen, Don Seawell, and the Denver Performing Arts Complex,” Summer 2007
  • “Where Music Dwells:  Denver’s Earliest Concert Spaces,” Summer 2002
  • “Denver’s Orchestral Overtures,” Spring 2002
  • “Grand Opera in Denver,” Spring 1999
  • “Astronauts to Zephyr:  Colorado’s Music of the 1960s,” Winter 1997
  • “History of Denver’s Symphony Orchestras,” Autumn 1992

In Colorado Magazine, the Historical Society’s predecessor to Colorado Heritage, you can read about Colorado music and theatre (Summer 1977); Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (Fall 1975); theatre in Colorado’s territorial days (Fall 1969, July 1961, and October 1960); music in early Denver (May 1944 and July 1944); Denver’s Tabor Grand Opera House (March 1941); Leadville’s Tabor Opera House (May 1936); and theatre in Central City (July 1934 and March 1929).

Several books in our collection also highlight different aspects of Colorado’s performing arts.  Orpheus in the Wilderness:  A History of Music in Denver, 1860-1925, by Henry Miles (Colorado Historical Society, 2006) tells the story of opera, orchestra, and church and saloon concerts in Denver’s first half-century.  The Ballad of Baby Doe, published by University Press of Colorado, tells the story of the making of a Colorado-centered opera.  Volume III of the Colorado Historical Society’s classic 1927 History of Colorado includes a chapter on the arts in Colorado, exploring music and theater as well as poetry, literature, and the visual arts.