Stoughton Opera House: Historic Theater Offers A Distinctive Setting

The newly refurbished venue isn’t well-known in all circles, but it sure draws some impressive talent. Take a peak inside this venue as it reboots for a new season.

The Stoughton Opera House accommodates just 475 people, so there’s not a bad seat in the house, says director Bill Brehm.

A lineup of stellar shows, coupled with some recent renovations, has the historic Stoughton Opera House, in Stoughton, Wis., poised for its best run ever.

“It’s a season like no other because our shows have the distinction of being years in the making,” says Bill Brehm, director of the Stoughton Opera House. “We have a busy, busy schedule with lots of great performers who rolled their shows forward due to COVID-19 cancellations in 2020.”

A weekly virtual audience streaming series ran in the spring, but Brehm says he’s overjoyed to resume a regular performance schedule.

“I think we have a good mix of up-and-coming performers along with established artists,” he says. “I try keeping my finger on the pulse of what’s popular and what music people enjoy. Our niche in the Dane County arts community is Americana music, which encompasses jazz, folk, bluegrass, country and rock.

“Esperanza Spalding did a show at the Stoughton Opera House in 2010 and a year later beat out Justin Bieber to win the Grammy for Best New Artist,” Brehm says. “Spalding has since received three additional Grammy awards.”

The Opera House’s weekly virtual performances also provided time for some much-needed physical and technical upgrades to the 120-year-old building.

“Over the course of the pandemic, we were able to get a broadcast-quality recording studio set up in the building,” Brehm says. “We have a multicamera setup and audio that’s controlled from the recording studio. That’s been really exciting.”

The Stoughton Opera House’s ability to stream its shows, he says, allows for a wider audience demographic.
“Streaming opens up our theater to people who are hesitant to attend indoor events, people with mobility issues, people who live geographically distant to the venue and people with young children who may not want to get a babysitter,” Brehm says. “It’s not just about streaming like it was during the pandemic; it’s about reaching people who can’t physically be here.”

Recently completed renovations also included an updated concession area at the Stoughton Opera House.

“The Ghost Light Lounge is a space on the first floor that formerly housed city administration offices,” Brehm says. “We gained 800 square feet with this added space, which is sectioned into three rooms. The first room has a small performance stage, while the other two areas house the Ghost Light Lounge and concessions. It’s a nice place for people to have a drink, see clips from old shows and catch up with friends before a performance.”
In addition to the cultural and economic contributions the Stoughton Opera House brings to Dane County, Brehm says the venue also has a unique feel.

“Even though we can accommodate 475 people, there’s really not a bad seat in the house,” he says. “By design, the shape of the room enhances the acoustics, and our patrons know that an event at the Opera House is a much more intimate and dynamic experience than what they could get anywhere else.”