Madison Opera began construction and renovation on its revamped home Wednesday, with a groundbreaking ceremony at the center’s current location.

The Madison Opera Center, which will occupy the basement and first floor of the Metropolitan Place II building on 355 W. Mifflin Street, will cover a total of 17,000 square feet, Kathryn Smith, the Madison Opera’s general director, said at the ceremony. 

The center’s ground level will house the opera’s administrative offices, music library and rehearsal hall. In the basement will be an additional rehearsal space and costume shop, Smith added, noting that the center would serve both the opera and the public.

The administrative staff has nearly finalized the center’s interior design, according to Smith. The rehearsal hall will be an open room with wooden floors, she said in an interview with The Badger Herald.

Madison Opera Artistic Director John DeMain also addressed the crowd. He noted the company is currently dispersed in rental spaces throughout Madison. The new building will allow all staff and performers to work in one space.

“Having a center with this great location right next door to Overture Hall, the chorus will rehearse here, the orchestra will rehearse here, [and] the singers will rehearse here,” DeMain said. “Having the family together is a wonderful thing.”

According to Smith, the public will be able to see rehearsals from the street, as the center’s exterior is lined with plate glass windows.

At the moment, passersby who look into the windows of the future center will see dust-coated concrete pillars and partially exposed PVC tubing, she said, a view which she said this will certainly disappear as construction commences.

Smith added that construction and future rehearsals will not disturb Metropolitan Place II residents.

“You can see it’s pretty solid construction, and we will be doing sound checks to make sure we will not disturb them,” Smith said.

As a testament to Madison Opera’s commitment to community involvement, Smith invited attendees to grab a shovel and participate in the groundbreaking.

Madison Opera Board of Trustees member Jim Ruhly said he is excited about the center’s creation.

“In something this huge and this close to the Overture, it’s been tremendous,” Ruhly said in an interview with The Badger Herald. “It’s a great honor to be part of the opera at this growth spurt.”

Although the grand opening of the Madison Opera Center is expected to happen in the fall, Smith said the groundbreaking is an equally significant occasion to celebrate.

She also emphasized the generosity of donors who helped fund the company’s acquisition of the space.

“After so many months of work by so many people to get just to this point, we wanted to mark the moment,” Smith said.

Until the building is ready to host performances, Smith said the opera will continue to perform shows at the Overture Center, which is located a block away.