For the first time in its modern existence, the is free of capital debt.
A , plus a $100,000 grant from the Napa County Board of Supervisors, enabled the historic hall to retire its mortgage last week.
At a "mortgage-burning" party Sunday night in the downstairs Café Theatre, supporters and trustees celebrated the hall's new financial independence before a rousing concert by South African jazz star Hugh Masekela.
Bob Almeida, chairman of Opera House board of trustees, traced the 19th-century theater's renaissance back to 1973, when it was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
"That literally saved this wonderful building from the wrecking ball," Almeida told the elated guests.
The next step in the timeline came in 1985 when René and Veronica di Rosa started the Napa Valley Opera House nonprofit and a capital campaign aimed at raising money "to buy the land and the shell of a building that was all that was left," Almeida said.
Progress was slow until 1997, when Robert and Margrit Mondavi issued a challenge grant.
"That turned out to be the rocket fuel that was needed to complete the capital campaign and raise the remaining funds that were necessary to renovate the building," Almeida said.
The Opera House began presenting shows in its downstairs space in 2002, and in 2003 the second-floor theater – named for Margrit Mondavi – opened to the public.
In 2011, the city and county both committed funding to help the Opera House free itself of its mortgage debt. Officials cited the failures of Copia and the Lincoln Theater in Yountville among reasons to support the Opera House.
Finally, Almeida told elated guests at Sunday's party, "on Feb. 9, 2012 at approximately 2 p.m., a wire transfer goes out and a clean title to the Opera House is received back."
It's a title that will remain unsmirched by future mortgages, Almeida promised: A new non-profit, Historic Theater Napa Valley, will operate the performing-arts center on behalf of the Opera House board and neither entity is permitted to use the building as collateral for any loan.
For upcoming Opera House shows, be sure to check our Events calendar.