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New Orleans' Katrina-damaged Mahalia Jackson Theater reopens

January 7, 2009 |  5:00 am


While other theaters and arts organizations around the country are downsizing or closing due to the stormy economy,  New Orleans'  storm-damaged Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts will reopen this week after a $22-million renovation, the first of the city's three major theaters to reopen since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. Saenger Theatre and the State Palace Theatre are scheduled to reopen within the next two years.

A week-long festival of events surrounding the theater's debut kicks off Thursday with a program featuring New Orleans-based performers; throughout the week, visiting stars include violinist Itzhak Perlman, gospel singer Yolanda Adams and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

Tenor Placido Domingo, who serves as general manager of Los Angeles Opera, will perform with the Louisiana Philharmonic, the New Orleans Opera Chorus and others on Jan. 17 on the Placido Domingo Stage, named in his honor. Domingo appeared along with Denyce Graves and other opera luminaries in New Orleans in 2006 in a benefit concert to raise money for the city's arts community. LA Opera also employed displaced New Orleans musicians post-Katrina.

"The reopening of the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts is central to the recovery and growth of the arts in New Orleans," New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin told The Times via e-mail. "Even in an environment in which we must make tough decisions about where to focus our resources, New Orleans is using federal and state resources as well as significant local dollars to invest in the arts and our city's heritage by transforming this critical community asset." 

-- Diane Haithman

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Mahalia would be the first local theater to reopen since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Photo: New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin with a construction crew on the Mahalia Jackson Theater stage in November 2008. Credit: Julie Plonk/City of New Orleans