To hear Sharon Litwin’s interview with Dave Hurlbert on WWNO radio, click here.
One could say that Dave Hurlbert moved from ballet to opera. But that would be only partially true. The owner of the Marigny Opera House, 725 St. Ferdinand St., is a classically-trained pianist whose summer job when attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts was playing for the New York City Ballet. And now he has added puppetry, theater, chamber music and myriad other performing arts to his new life in New Orleans.
The Marigny Opera House has become one of the most popular artistic venues in the Crescent City. Built in 1853, the long-closed former Holy Trinity Catholic Church has become a community center again, used for activities as various as Fringe Festival performances and Christian prayer meetings, Giant Puppet Festivals and local school fundraisers.
It’s the latest full-steam-ahead venture of Hurlburt and his partner, Scott King, who moved here from San Francisco three years ago. While on the West Coast, Dave was the principal pianist for the San Francisco Ballet and, on the side, co-founded “a shoe-string opera company” whose productions “never cost more than $20,” he says with a laugh.
“It was pretty selfish,” he continues. “It was founded so I could do anything I wanted to do. So I did. We did almost all the operas of Gian Carlo Menotti, Stephen Sondheim musicals and works by Kurt Weill. It was a lot of fun.”
Hurlbert is still having fun, and in an adopted city that he loves.
“I think New Orleans is the most beautiful in North America,” he says. “It’s a young city because it’s still pretty affordable. There are so many young performing artists in this town. It’s quite amazing. And then there’s the food.”
Dave acts as janitor, website techie, booking agent and on-site manager of the Marigny Opera House. Despite a few daunting zoning issue, which have now been resolved, the ongoing renovation of an ancient, but beautiful, building and the endless details involved in all the many performances and community events, “I love it,” he says. “I have never been happier.”
For more information about the Marigny Opera House and upcoming performances, go to www.marignyoperahouse.org.
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie.