Salisbury Lyric Opera
The beautiful cathedral city of Salisbury is in Wiltshire, England and was formerly known as New Sarum, to separate it from the very distinguished historical site of Old Sarum which was the original settlement to the north of the city. While the city itself was not established until 1220, it is known that there has been a settlement in this area of Wiltshire since prehistory and there is evidence of a Neolithic settlement on the hilltop of Old Sarum, which later became a hill fort during the Iron Age.
The first cathedral at Salisbury was built on the hill at Old Sarum by Bishop Osmund and was completed in 1092 before being replaced with a larger building on the same site in 1120. Differences of opinion and deteriorating relations between the military and clergy however eventually resulted in a decision to move the cathedral and so the city of New Sarum was founded in 1220 on the meadow of Merrifield and work was started on the new cathedral.
The cathedral took a total of 38 years to build and, even today, remains one of the finest examples of early English architecture. The original building did not however boast the spire which we see today and which was added at a later date. Standing some 404 ft high (123 m) this impressive spire is the tallest to be found anywhere in the United Kingdom. The cathedral also houses a large mechanical clock which was installed in 1386 and is the oldest surviving mechanical clock in the British Isles.
Salisbury and the surrounding area feature prominently in the history of the United Kingdom and the city was, in particular, a well know centre for music during the 18th century when James Harris, a friend of Handel, conducted regular concerts in the Assembly Rooms for nearly 50 years up until 1780. During this period the most famous singers and musicians in the Kingdom performed at the Salisbury Assembly Rooms.
Salisbury is twinned with several other cities including two American cities of the same name situated in North Carolina and Maryland and this is important when we talk about Salisbury Lyric Opera because we are referring to the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore, Maryland.
Modeled after the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Salisbury Lyric Opera saw its inaugural performance on 31 October 1894 given by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and featuring a solo performance by the Australian opera singer Nellie Melba. During the early part of the twentieth century the Metropolitan Opera also performed on several occasions and Enrico Caruso appeared in one memorable performance of Martha.
In addition to its musical performances the Salisbury Lyric Opera also saw many famous speakers gracing its stage including such names as Will Rogers, Clarence Darrow, Amealia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh.