Sunday, November 24, 2013

Amargosa Opera House, NV

It's odd and amazing what we can find in the middle of this vast, lonely desert landscape.  Between Beatty and Pahrump, on Highway 160 in Nevada, in Death Valley Junction is the Amargosa Opera House, yes, Opera House.  The "town" was originally the home of a borax mining company, with housing for miners and big-wigs. The mine closed by the 1930s and became yet another southwestern ghost town; well, it still is technically.  Marta Becket is the artist and the dancer behind this story.  In 1967, she and her husband stopped in town to have a flat tire repaired when Marta found the old building originally used for social events for the miners.  She fell in love and arranged to rent it.  They sold their belongings in New York, and moved to the Amargosa Valley.  Marta was a ballerina then in her 40s, and planned to entertain the locals, but no one came, so she danced to empty chairs.  As a performer, you need an audience, so she painted one on the walls.  Then she painted beloved cherubs and vestal virgins on the ceiling.  The result is a labour of love for the woman who did finally draw the crowds until her retirement just a few years ago at the age of 85!  She is still alive, and performing but not dancing, today and one of the two last residents of this strange little ghost town!

Looking out at the theatre from the stage, with the King and Queen of Spain sitting above the doors at the back center.

Nuns sitting beside the ladies of the night who came for a night of culture once a month. Marta's sense of humour!

Part of the ceiling - cherubs, doves and the sixteen vestal virgins.
One of Marta's cats painted on the back wall, watching her performances for eternity.

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