A Notoriously Jinxed Concert Hall Is Reborn, Again

David Geffen Hall, the New York Philharmonic’s Lincoln Center home, is reopening after a $550 million renovation aimed at breaking its acoustic curse — and adding a dash of glamour.

By Michael Kimmelman

“The oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, the Philharmonic is hoping that it has finally seen the last of its star-crossed auditorium’s notoriously troublesome acoustics and that it has devised a world-class hall enticing to new generations of concertgoers. Its audience has been aging, averaging 57 years old, and its model of selling tickets by subscription is just as creaky. Both the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center, its landlord, keep struggling to forge stronger ties with wider and more diverse audiences, a promise still largely unfulfilled after six decades…

“Officials from the center started attending tenants’ meetings at the public housing projects in the neighborhood, organizing performances there, transforming the center’s public spaces into pop-up parks and testing pay-what-you-wish concerts to attract a new audience to hear music that is also more diverse. At Geffen, for example, a multimedia piece by the composer Etienne Charles called “San Juan Hill” has been commissioned to open the hall and an Afro-Punk festival is slated for this winter.

“We are focused now on the issue of civic space,” is how [new president and chief executive, Henry] Timms explained the center’s philosophy to me. “We always brought in great artists, but there are many different kinds of great artists out there who belong here…

“Covid cost the Philharmonic more than $27 million in anticipated ticket revenues. But it also reinforced the urgency to cultivate a wider public and, at the same time, to pay off a moral and cultural debt. The democratic impulse that enlarged the hall in the 1960s has now led Lincoln Center to make Geffen smaller and to tweak the hall’s architectural mojo in other ways.”

Source: The New York Times