Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Ellie Caulkins Opera House

Rechristened the Ellie Caulkins Opera House after a major renovation and rebuilding, the former Newton Auditorium is now the elegant home to Opera Colorado and the Colorado Ballet. After a decade of planning and a year of construction, the historic but outdated Auditorium Theater was gutted and an entirely new theatre constructed within its walls.

City officials had observed that when audiences and artists experienced the newer facilities in Denver, “the more the shortcomings of the old auditorium were noticeable”. Lobbies were too small, seating uncomfortable and acoustics poor. The City initially asked the design team to improve the building to meet code and ADA requirements, but studies concluded that saving the existing theatre was not the best solution.

FDA and Semple Brown Architects collaborated to design a soaring new space within the shell of the original building. With superb acoustics and great sightlines as a priority, the design team applied the pallette of the world’s great opera houses – multiple shallow balconies that wrap around the room and a tall volume for reverberance. Improved legroom for patrons, enhanced performer accommodations like renovated dressing rooms and new rehearsal rooms all contribute to making the Opera House the newest jewel in Denver’s crown of performing arts spaces.

  • Client: City of Denver
  • Architect: Semple Brown Design
  • Completion Year: 2005
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Acoustician: Robert Mahoney & Associates
  • Capacity: 2,400 seats


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