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For the Atlanta Opera, the show goes on under an Armbruster circus tent

Swatches | March 1, 2021 | By:

Written in 1892, Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci is perfectly set in a circus tent styled from the same era, even with an updated twist of COVID-19. Reviewing the performance within the open-air venue, a writer for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution quipped, “It was a breath of fresh air to see it live.” Photo: Raftermen.

In the Atlanta Opera’s fall 2020 interpretation of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, the tragic clown Canio has COVID-19. But the Georgia-based company went to great lengths to ensure that its cast, crew and audiences didn’t succumb to the same fate, with the help of a circus tent from Armbruster Manufacturing Co.  

As the Opera crafted a season that reimagined music and storytelling while prioritizing health and safety, the organization contacted the Springfield, Ill.-based tent manufacturer to provide an innovative open-air venue. 

 Armbruster Manufacturing Co. supplied the circus tent that served as a venue for 18 performances in the fall of 2020, allowing the Atlanta Opera’s fall season to proceed. Photos: Ken Howard.

“They were looking for a traditional circus-style tent in the size of 60-by-125 feet with 12-foot-high sides for better ventilation inside the tent,” says president Hellar Armbruster. “The final plan was for a blue and red traditional round-end circus-style pole tent with a custom valance from our 1890 designs and matching sidewalls to partially close in the tent when needed.”

Made in the traditional style of Armbruster Manufacturing’s older circus tents but with modern materials and fabrication techniques, the tent was manufactured toward the end of summer and installed on the historic Anderson Field at Oglethorpe University. With a capacity for 240 audience members, the tent hosted nine performances each of Pagliacci and The Kaiser of Atlantis in October and November. Safety protocols and procedures were developed by a task force of epidemiologists, public health specialists and doctors. And the tent triumphed over a more typical safety challenge as well. 

“Shortly after the tent was installed, it withstood hurricane-force winds and performed wonderfully,” Armbruster says, “a testament to the heavy-duty construction techniques and materials that we put into each and every one of our tents.” 

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