Construction Begins on the Muny: April 16, 1917

The Muny in 1923
The Muny in 1923 • Public Domain

Construction began on a permanent theater for the Municipal Opera in Forest Park, St. Louis on this date in 1917.

The Municipal Opera, commonly referred to as The Muny, is a historic outdoor theater nestled in Forest Park. Its origins trace back to 1916, when a pageant and masque to celebrate the city’s 150th anniversary was held in Forest Park, demonstrating the potential for a permanent outdoor theater.

Construction was completed a breakneck speed, taking just 49 days and being spurred on by public enthusiasm and the support of prominent city figures and philanthropists. The Muny was officially inaugurated on June 5, 1919, with a production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” Designed to be both grand and accessible, it originally seated 11,000 spectators, making it the largest and oldest outdoor musical theater in the United States.

Throughout its history, The Muny has played host to numerous notable events and figures in the performing arts world. It has staged a wide array of performances, ranging from classic operas and Broadway musicals to concerts and ballets. The venue quickly became a cultural cornerstone of St. Louis, drawing audiences from across the nation with its enchanting open-air setting and high-quality productions.

In addition to its artistic contributions, The Muny has undergone several renovations and technological upgrades to preserve its legacy while enhancing audience experiences. These improvements have included updates to its sound and lighting systems, as well as expansions of its stage and seating areas to maintain modern standards of comfort and accessibility.

Today, The Muny continues to thrive as a beloved summer tradition for many St. Louis residents and visitors. Its season typically runs from mid-June to mid-August, offering a slate of musicals that often includes both time-tested favorites and innovative new works. The theater remains a testament to St. Louis’ commitment to the arts, fostering a vibrant community of performers and audiences alike.