1971 Tommy

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In 1971, Seattle Opera premiered the world’s first rock opera, Tommy, by The Who (Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon), at the Moore Theater. “Tommy” was Bette Midler’s only appearance with Seattle Opera. Glynn Ross, Seattle Opera’s founding General Director, asked Director Richard Pearlman and Designer Ronald Chase to transform Tommy, The Who’s best-selling 1969 album, from concert into opera; according to The Houston Post’s 5/6/1971 review, the result was “literally stunning in its totally original artistic conception and its enthusiastic performance by a talented young cast.” Norman Durkee, who had previously conducted “Hair” at the Moore Theater, “led a four-piece rock band so authentic that some of its members didn’t even read music, playing not from charts but from memory, a band as responsive to the heat of the moment as the singers onstage,” according to Roger Downey in the 5/11/1994 Seattle Weekly.