West Edge Opera Finds New Home in Pacific Pipe Warehouse

Janos Gereben on June 10, 2017
The Oakland warehouse where West Edge Opera will stage its 2017 festival | Credit: Cory Weaver

West Edge Opera traditionally presents untraditional fare (just look below at the current repertory), and has been hopping from one unusual venue to another. Now it has found a new home: an abandoned, historic warehouse West Edge calls the Festival Pavilion.

It's Pacific Pipe Oakland, at 1391 W. Grand Avenue in West Oakland, a super-sized warehouse built in the 1920s and, among other distinctions, the area where portions of the Bay Bridge were fabricated and stored during construction.

Historic photo of the plant in use | Courtesy of Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room and Maps Division

West Edge, née Berkeley Opera, started in a Julia Morgan-built former church, named for her; proceeded to a high school auditorium in El Cerrito. Then came the abandoned train station in Oakland, from which the company was ousted by regulations enforced in the aftermath of the deadly Ghost Ship fire.

Yet another venue for West Edge was near the warehouse, American Steel Studios, used by the peripatetic company for the 2015 production of Monteverdi’s Ulysses.

First use of the new venue will be for West Edge Festival 2017, Aug. 5-20, which will present Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet, Libby Larsen's Frankenstein, and Vicente Martin y Soler's The Chastity Tree

The transition to the new venue is challenging, says West Edge General Director Mark Streshinsky, who will lead pre-curtain talks in the Festival Pavilion approximately 45 minutes before each performance. The place is a large, empty warehouse without running water and electricity; in that way, it is similar to the 16th Street Station.

Plenty of room in the wings at the new opera house | Credit: Cory Weaver

Seating is identical to that in the train station and those who have already bought tickets will be able to keep their seats. A free shuttle will be available to transport patrons from the West Oakland BART station to the warehouse. The audience is invited to enjoy complimentary beer and wine in the Festival Pavilion, which will be located in the sculpture garden alongside the warehouse, beginning two hours before each performance.

Edward Nelson as Hamlet | Credit: Cory Weaver

Hamlet will be conducted by Jonathan Khuner, staged by Aria Umezawa. It features Edward Nelson as Hamlet, Emma McNairy as Ophelié, and Susanne Mentzer as Gertrude. Performance dates are Aug. 5 (8 p.m.), 13 (3 p.m.), and 19 (1 p.m.).

The Chastity Tree (L’arbore di Diana) is conducted by Robert Mollicone, directed by Streshinsky, choreographed by Sarah Berges. The cast includes Nikki Einfeld, Christine Brandes, and Malte Roesner, on Aug. 6 (3 p.m.), 12 (1 p.m.), and 19 (8 p.m.).

Khuner returns to conduct Frankenstein on Aug. 12 (8 p.m.), 17 (7:30 p.m.), and 20 (3 p.m.); Matthew Ozawa directs, Jeremy Knight is video designer. Samuel Levine is Viktor Frankenstein and Chelsea Hollow is Elizabeth. 

Street view of the new West Edge Opera venue