Dec 14, 2021
A 125-year-old opera house gets a grand reopening in Williamsburg
The refurbished venue is part of the Catholic Church's new evangelical Emmaus Center
After decades of neglect, a completely refurbished historic Williamsburg Opera House got its grand reopening on Monday night with a “Spirit of Christmas” concert featuring Matt Maher. According to Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, the chairman of the new Emmaus Center, which operates the space, the 600-seat theater is now the fourth largest such venue in all of Brooklyn, after Barclays, King’s Theater, and BAM.
The Opera House, built in 1897, is situated on top of and adjacent to the also-refurbished Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church on Berry Street. As such, the mission of the Emmaus Center is not just to entertain you. “We’re looking to evangelize people that don’t have God in their lives, people that don’t know Christ,” Gigantiello, as everyone calls him, tells Brooklyn Magazine. “Just plant that seed of faith through music and song and dance.”
It that sounds pretty weighty—Gigantiello says that the “theme” of future Opera House and Emmaus Center performances and events would be “the presence of God in our world and our lives”—know that the legendary Jonathon Richman, known for songs like “Roadrunner,” “Parties in the U.S.A.” and “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar,” has two shows here in February. So perhaps it will offer a little something for everyone?
The Opera House itself, as you can see in the photos, has retained its century-old vibe. The seating, molding, and detailing are all from the original space or, when that was impossible due to decay—as with the carpeting—reproduced using old photos.
The old-timey feel, while certainly charming, also comes with a certain lack of contemporary comforts. The balcony seats have no cushions, for example, and wouldn’t feel out of place in vintage an elementary school auditorium. Leg room, too, is kept at a minimum throughout. In addition to concerts, the Opera House and Emmaus Center will be hosting movie screenings, theatrical performances, lectures, outreach programs, and are available for private events.
The Opera House is part of an evangelical institution, but, of course, everyone is welcome. Just be prepared to be a little … evangelized at.
“What I like to do is give people a good experience when they come into the building, so they’ll say ‘this is a cool place,’ and hopefully plant the seed of Christ—the Holy Spirit will do what it needs to do,” says Craig Tubiolo, the executive director of the Emmaus Center. “But whether they want to become Christians, or just want to be involved in the space and come to events, we’re all about just letting the community know that we’re here, we’re here to help and give them a place that they can come and just be a part of.”
The Opera House, Emmaus Center, and the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church are all located at 288 Berry Street, between S 2nd and S 3rd Streets.
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