The Orpheum: A NOLA Classic, Renewed

The Orpheum is back: another beautiful jewel in the crown of theaters like The Saenger, The Joy, and The Civic all in downtown New Orleans. Its renewal is a microcosm of much of the revitalization happening all along Canal Street and throughout the Central Business District. But just what did it take to reintroduce this theater – the home of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra – and bring it back to its former glory? Take a look at the transformation. 

orpheum jamey shaw

The interior of The Orpheum. (Photo courtesy Jamey Shaw)

Meticulous Specifications

Roland and Mary von Kurnatowski (the owners of Tipitina’s) along with Dr. Eric George purchased The Orpheum and spearheaded a renovation costing about $13 million. The von Kurnatowskis weren’t content to restore the building to its 2005 specifications. Instead, they pored over photographs and descriptions to bring The Orpheum back to the original Beaux Arts-era craftsmanship of when it first opened in 1921. In fact, they even hand-painted sections of the theater’s intricate decorations to make sure every detail was perfect. It’s easy to imagine what this theater must’ve looked like in the Roaring Twenties thanks to the period-specific renovation. Striking tones of blue and gold and exquisite molding travel up the walls as high as the eye can see. The ceiling features the same decorative aspects for a truly show-stopping visual experience.

The exterior of the theater. (Photo courtesy Jamey Shaw)

The exterior of the theater. (Photo courtesy Jamey Shaw)

The Orpheum is not only impressive because of its beauty, but also because of its acoustics. It’s a vertical hall theater, which means that if you sit to enjoy an orchestra performance, for example, members of the orchestra might be in sections above and to the right and left of the center stage. Vertical hall theaters are known for providing perfect sight lines and acoustics for everyone in attendance. There are very few left in the United States, which is part of the reason The Orpheum is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

The Home of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) has a lot to celebrate this year. It’s the 25-year celebration of the orchestra’s inception, and it’s also the year they will return to their rightful home inside The Orpheum. During The Orpheum’s ten-year hiatus, the orchestra was unable to perform inside the acoustically (and visually) remarkable theater, but the theater’s August opening meant that the LPO has plenty of time to prepare for their 25th season, starting with a performance at The Orpheum on Sept. 19.

Other Events

Although The Orpheum was restored with 1921 décor in mind, it is also thoroughly modern. Technological improvements like a movable floor will allow the theater to host all different types of events, from concerts to standup to galas. Improved restrooms (now available on every floor) plus six bars, a full kitchen, and a snack bar provide plenty of food and drink options for guests. The Orpheum has even brought in former 12 Mile Limit bartender T. Cole Newton to help develop a bar program that complements the theater’s mix of vintage and modern elements.

Upcoming shows include the LPO season opener plus performances from Wilco, Dwight Yoakim, and a fun reprise of the LPO’s live orchestral movies, where they’ll provide live music set to “The Wizard of Oz” this November