The Auckland Opera House
is really the only theatre in the city, as the City Hall in Queen Street has no license for dramatic performances, and is, more properly speaking, a concert and lecture hall. The Opera House was built in 1882, and first opened on the 23rd of May of that year. In 1897 a number of alterations were made in the stage and the house was thoroughly renovated throughout, so that at present it is one of the best appointed theatres in the Colony. The building is an imposing one, with a grey stone facade, and cement back and walls. The entrances to the stalls and dress circle are in Wellesley Street, and the principal stage entrances are on Elliot Street. The auditorium consists of orchestra stalls, stalls, pit, and dress circle, and can comfortably seat about 1300 people. The orchestra stalls, of which there are three rows, are composed of patent iron theatre chairs comfortably upholstered. The same style is used in the dress circle, and the ordinary stalls and pit are furnished with wooden benches, provided with backs. There are also four proscenium boxes. The stage has a width of 67 feet with a depth of 42 feet, and the height from the stage floor to the gridiron is 52 feet. These dimensions are sufficiently large to take in the biggest sized cloths. The width of the proscenium is 31 feet 6 inches. Beneath the stage there is an airy collar, 42 feet deep by 67 feet wide, with a height of 14 feet. There are eleven dressing-rooms downstairs and eight on the stage, all fitted with every convenience. The building is furnished with the latest and most improved appliances for dealing with fire, including a patent hosewheel, the invention of Superintendent Hughes. This is situated in a convenient position on the stage, so that in case of an outbreak of fire, the water could be turned in any direction at a moment's notice. The proprietor always keeps a large amount of stock scenery on hand, sufficient for the staging of any ordinary drama.
Auckland Opera House.
The City Hall,
which belongs to the proprietor of the Opera House, is situated in Queen Street, between Victoria and Wellesley Streets. It is a brick building, and has very lately been re-decorated and painted throughout. It was opened early in the seventies, and has sitting accommodation for about 1500 persons. The stage is 69 feet wide by 26 feet deep, and the height to the top of the proscenium is 23 feet. As already stated, the City Hall is utilised almost exclusively as a lecture and concert hall. Both the Opera House and the City Hall belong to the estate of the late Mr. H. N. Abbott, and Mr. McConnochie is agent for both properties on behalf of Mr. Abbott's executors.
City Hall, Auckland.
Mr. H. N. Abbott
was born in Alford, Lincolnshire, and educated in England. As a young man he was apprenticed to a chemist and druggist in Alford. After serving his term of apprenticeship Mr. Abbott was a chemist's assistant in London for two years. He arrived in Melbourne on the 14th of February, 1855, and shortly afterwards went into business at St. Kilda. About two years later he was smitten with the gold fever, and went to the diggings in the Ovens district, where he met with varying success. He visited the various goldfields of Victoria and New South Wales, and was engaged in mining off and on for about five years. In 1862 he was attracted to New Zealand by the Hartley and Riley “rush” in the Otago district, and started storekeeping on the Shotover river, where he remained for about two years, when he moved to the West Coast. Mr. Abbott was one of the pioneer storekeepers on the Coast, and was, in fact, the first man to start a store inland. In June, 1864, he opened a store at Greenstone Creek, nineteen miles away from the mouth of the Grey River. There was hardly a blade of grass in the district then, and as oats were worth a shilling a pound the horses many times were obliged to subsist on the leaves of the trees. A lot of money was to be made in those days packing stores from the mouth of the river to the field, and Mr. Abbott, with the aid of
twelve horses, at one time made £930 in three weeks by freighting alone. He remained at Greenstone Creek until 1867, when he gave up his business and took a trip to England
for a year's rest. On his return to New Zealand, the Thames goldfields were in full swing, and he went to the Thames, where he started the Exchange Hotel. In 1869 he also bought the Waitemata Hotel in Queen Street, Auckland, and ran the two for a while, but eventually sold the Thames Hotel to his manager. Mr. Abbott remained in the “Waitemata” for seven years. He then took over the City Club Hotel, whence he went to the United Service Hotel. He bought the ground adjoining this hotel, and built the Opera House on the site in 1882, and took over the City Hall a year later. Mr. Abbott re-visited England in 1877, and again in 1895. He was extensively interested in the mining industry, and was for many years one of the boldest speculators in that connection in Auckland. Mr. Abbott died on the 19th of November, 1899, at Dunedin, whilst on a visit to that city.
(Mr. P. R. Dix, lessee), Queen Street and Victoria Street West, Auckland. Since the 1st of April, 1899, this popular place of amusement has been occupied by Dix's Gaiety Company, under the management of Mr. P. R. Dix, with an excellent and varied entertainment, which has successfully appealed to the popular taste.
Mr. Percy Reginald Dix,
Proprietor of Dix's Gaiety Company and Lessee of the City Hall, Auckland, is a versatile Tasmanian, who has been in his time a student of chemistry, a dealer in teas, and for a number of years a theatrical manager. He was borr in Launceston, Tasmania, and received his education at the Collegiate Institute of that town. After passing his first examination as a professional chemist, he decided to proceed no further, and went to Melbourne, where he mastered the mysteries of the tea trade. He arrived in Auckland in 1891, and commenced business as a tea merchant, and successfully carried on the trade until he entered the profession of public entertainer and theatrical manager, by initiating the Monday Popular Concerts in the City Hall. These concerts were continued for three years, and whilst engaged in their management Mr Dix acted as secretary of the Auckland Amateur Opera Club, which, during his time, staged “The Mikado,” “The Gondoliers,” and “Les Cloches de Corneville,” with artistic and financial success. Mr. Dix was also secretary of the Auckland Literary Society's Union, and Premier of the Auckland Union Parliament. Since Mr. Dix has assumed the management of the City Hall, he has introduced a number of clever and versatile artists, and claims that he has established a theatrical record, as his company has (January,
1901) been performing for nearly two years, and the City Hall is now an established resort of popular entertainment.
Mr. John McConnochie,
Manager of the Auckland Opera House and City Hall, was born in Auckland, in 1862, and educated in the city. He served an apprenticeship with his father, the late Mr McConnochie, builder and contractor. Later on the entered into partnership with his father, under the style of McConnochie and Son, builders and contractors, and for a number of years they carried on a very successful building trade. Mr. McConnochie afterwards proceeded to Sydney and Melbourne, where he carried out large building contracts. He returned to Auckland in 1894, and joined the late Mr. Abbott as his manager, a position to which he has lately been re-appointed by the present proprietress, Mrs. Abbott. Mr. McConnochie is a keen sportsman, and is seen at all the principal racing events around Auckland. He is also a member of the Old Chums' Association. Mr. McConnochie is married, and has three sons and one daughter, his eldest son being at present employed
in the well-known firm of T. S. Morrin and Co.