Operatic’s first production, a three act production named December Song, opened on December 1 1952, produced by Erika Lagore. With a cast of 90, and two orchestra’s, December Song’s season was just 3 nights long, with tickets costing 6 shillings (60c) for Adults and 3 Shillings for children. 1785 patrons saw December Song, which made the society a profit of £200. After what all considered to a resounding success, the musical comedy ‘A Country Girl’ was chosen to be the society’s second production. The show, which cost just £1100 to mount and made a profit of £590.
Perhaps the most significant event in the society’s history has been the saving of the Opera House. A theatre was originally built in 1883 on the Devon Street site of the Opera House. Known as the Alexander Hall, it was enlarged in 1904 and sold to the New Plymouth Theatre Company and renamed the Theatre Royal but was then destroyed by fire in 1916. After being rebuilt it opened on the 28th of November 1925 as The New Plymouth Opera House and has been the ‘home’ to most of New Plymouth Operatic’s productions ever since. However, the theatre faced demolition in 1969 when its owners ran into financial trouble and the New Plymouth City Council refused to purchase the building. Members campaigned fearlessly to save the Opera House. Then President John Murphy was spat on in the street by people objecting to his campaign to have the council spend money on purchasing the building.
In 1970, although the government valuation was $135,000, New Plymouth Operatic was able to purchase the Opera House for $80,000. Operatic raised a mortgage over its rooms in Robe Street to provide funds for the deposit. To enable the purchase, a number of members; Brien Bennett, Don Clarke, Brian Inns, John Murphy, Leo Noble Campbell, David Parker, Mike Parkes, Geoff Samson, Al Offord and Charles Rush had to sign joint personal guarantees to secure funding. The Society gifted the theatre to a trust for the people of New Plymouth in 1972.
In 1999 there was a major development of the complex driven by New Plymouth Operatic and its members. Today three venues are housed within one complex – the TSB Theatre (the Opera House), the smaller Theatre Royal and the Alexandra Room realising the vision John Murphy had for the venue back in 1969. John’s legacy will always be remembered at the Opera House, with the naming of the ‘John Murphy Green Room’ after the 1999 redevelopment.