Orillia Opera House makeover mixes history with new technology

The historic Orillia Opera House has undergone a facelift, blending old and new to maintain the building's iconic appearance while also adapting to a pandemic-driven reality.

The opera house was built in 1895 and featured an impressive roll call of arts and entertainment.

"We've had everyone from current stars Bare Naked Ladies, Serena Ryder, our biggest person that's nationally known is Gordon Lightfoot, of course," said general manager Wendy Fairbairn.

This isn't the first time the building has undergone a makeover.

The building served as home to city hall, as well as a police station and jail.

"We did have a major fire in 1915, and it was rebuilt pretty much to the structure you see today," Fairbairn said.

Now, it's home to one of the largest theatres north of Toronto.

In 2016, the theatre's auditorium received $3 million in renovations to restore it to the colours from the 1915 timeframe.

The theatre also installed cameras to live-stream performances after COVID-19 closed its doors to the public.

Information on virtual performances is available here.

The structure's property and assets superintendent, Tyler Hunt, said roof renovations are underway as part of the ongoing conservation plan.

Crews are installing slate roof tiles and added structural support, mirroring the two turrets repaired in 2014.

"We're expecting that this slate roof will last upwards of 50 to 75, even 100 years," said Hunt.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of October.