This episode of The Atlas Obscura Podcast transports listeners to the historic Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado. Today, Colorado is a hub for music and performance, but long before anyone appeared live at Red Rocks or made The Fillmore shake, there was the Tabor – which not only staged high dramas, tragedies, and tales of star-crossed lovers…it also inspired an opera of its own.
Host Dylan Thuras explores the story of the Tabor’s enigmatic founder, Horace Tabor, who went from rags to riches in the blink of an eye thanks to the Colorado Silver Boom. Tabor’s meteoric rise brought wealth, political power, and a scandalous love affair with a divorcee 24 years his junior, the famed beauty Elizabeth “Baby Doe” McCourt. But it all came crashing down as quickly as it began, when Horace – and Baby Doe – lost everything, were forced to sell the Tabor Opera House, and died penniless.
Decades later, when the Opera House was threatened with destruction, a Leadville woman named Evelyn Furman came to its rescue, preserving the theater for future generations. Furman also introduced the theater and its fascinating “ghosts” to two American songwriters, who were inspired by the Tabors’ story to pen the opera “The Ballad of Baby Doe.” “The Ballad of Baby Doe” has since become one of the most popularly performed American operas, and the Tabor Opera House – today undergoing extensive renovation – continues to inspire.