Winnipeg Auditorium

Winnipeg Auditorium. Winnipeg's main concert hall complex from 1932, when it opened, until 1968, when it was supplanted in that function by the Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall. It was designed jointly by three architectural firms - Northwood & Chivers, Pratt & Ross, and J.N. Semmens - and erected on St Mary's Ave at Memorial Blvd at a cost of $1 million. A Depression unemployment relief project, it was financed by civic, provincial, and federal governments and inaugurated 15 Oct 1932 by the Canadian prime minister, R.B. Bennett. The main auditorium (seating over 4000) and the concert hall (seating 800) shared a single stage - a doubtful economy since it made their simultaneous use impossible. A third auditorium (the assembly hall, seating 400) shared the third floor with the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Manitoba Museum.

The main auditorium was the home 1947-68 of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, the evening sessions of the Manitoba (Winnipeg) Music Competition Festival, and the Gee Celebrity Concerts. Marian Anderson, Victoria de los Angeles, Glenn Gould, Jascha Heifetz, Joseph Hofmann, Vladimir Horowitz, Fritz Kreisler, Lois Marshall, Arturo Benedetto Michelangeli, Gregor Piatigorsky, Ezio Pinza, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Elisabeth Rethberg, Artur Rubinstein, Josef Szigeti, Lawrence Tibbett, Helen Traubel, Leonard Warren, and many others were heard there in recital. The Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, the Sadler's Wells Ballet, the San Carlo Opera, and the New York Philharmonic appeared there, and the Minneapolis SO under Mitropoulos and, later, Dorati was for many years an annual visitor. Although it was the largest and one of the finest Canadian buildings of its day, the main auditorium was poor acoustically and was far surpassed in this regard by its successor, the centennial hall. The acoustics were a by-product of its all-purpose design, with unraked floor and removable seats permitting its conversion for social dancing, roller skating, wrestling, bond rallies, conventions, etc.

The smaller concert hall (described by the English musician William Glock, during an adjudicating tour of Canada in the late 1940s, as one of the country's two best auditoria - the other being the original Eaton Auditorium, Toronto) was the home 1940-65 of the Women's Musical Club's annual concert series. It survived the building's $3-million 1975 remodelling (into the Provincial Archives and Library) but by the early 1980s was no longer in use.