While I have not found the opera house I recall from my seafaring life, I have had some success finding a building closer to the type it might have been.
Ever since I recalled making port in San Francisco I never fully discounted the idea that I had settled in the Western US but there aren’t many of the old frontier opera houses left any more. Certainly the first opera houses in San Francisco were replaced quickly as the building boom continued through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and there’s very little left from that era in Portland, Seattle, or Astoria so I had little to go on for what an American frontier opera house actually looked like.
Then I learned about the Eureka Opera House in Nevada, build in the 1880s and still relatively intact. While it is not the opera house I recall (built too late for one thing), it is closer to the type. The presence of (now electrified) gas chandeliers and the proscenium around the stage feels more familiar, and the size of the space feels about right.
Now one thing I must point out: opera was not the only thing performed in these houses; they often doubled as music halls. But certainly an amateur troupe performing Verdi would not be out of the question for such a venue either.
So I may have been looking for James’ grave in the wrong places. I had been looking in England and found nothing, and while the available records are incomplete, I can’t rule out that I was a British sailor who made a new life in California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, or even Alaska. If I can find record of a James Hay or Hayes or Hague, or of a Clyde Starr, who worked as a stagehand and drowned in a West Coast town between 1870 and 1877, I might have a confirmation on my hands at last.