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NYCB's theater renovation update


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#1 Dale

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 03:38 PM

From the company:

NEW YORK CITY BALLET AND NEW YORK CITY OPERA
EXPAND SCOPE OF DAVID H. KOCH THEATER RENOVATION
TO INCLUDE ADDITIONAL AISLES ON THE ORCHESTRA LEVEL

As construction resumes at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, following a scheduled hiatus for New York City Balletís winter season, New York City Opera and New York City Ballet announced today that the scope of work for the joint $80 million renovation of the theater is being expanded to include a redesign of the theaterís orchestra level seating to add two side aisles. Because construction work for the entire renovation project has remained on schedule and within budget, the Ballet and Opera are able to take on this new element of the renovation and still be ready for the scheduled re-opening in early November 2009.

The redesign of the orchestra level will maintain the integrity of the theaterís seating plan and retain its generous 40-inch legroom and unparalleled sightlines. The new side aisles will be carved into the orchestraís current layout without altering the arc of the rows. The doorways along each side of the orchestra level, which provide convenient access for audience members, also will remain unaltered.
Patrons of the refurbished David H. Koch Theater will enjoy the comfort and visual appeal of entirely new seats, which are being installed throughout the theater. The renovated theater will have a total capacity of 2,576, including standing room positions and prime spaces for patrons with disabilities. The theater currently has a total capacity of 2,763.

ďI am thrilled that we have come up with a plan that honors and preserves Philip Johnsonís original design for the theater, and at the same time opens up the orchestra level to provide enhanced comfort and accessibility for audiences,Ē said Peter Martins, NYCBís Ballet Master in Chief.

ďWe look forward eagerly to performing in the enhanced auditorium. I know that our audiences will be excited by the improved theater when we welcome them to our 2009/2010 season,Ē stated George Steel, General Manager and Artistic Director of New York City Opera.

Begun in July 2008, the renovation will expand the orchestra pit of the David H. Koch Theater to accommodate a larger orchestra. The pit will gain further flexibility with the addition of a mechanical lift and a modification of the stage apron. These changes will allow the orchestra to play in a pit at any depth, or as high as stage level for concert performance. The new flexible pit will both increase the presence of the orchestraís sound in the theater, and improve conditions for the Operaís singers, who will benefit from a clearer and more direct exchange with the conductor and orchestra. Other acoustical interventions, including the removal of carpet from the auditorium and the installation of entirely new seats that have been carefully tested for sound absorption, are also being made to improve the musical experience for the audience.

Another enhancement of the artistic experience will come from a new and upgraded lighting system including a sophisticated new light board, additional positions for stage lamps and a new system of lighting ladders, which permit lamps at the sides of the stage to be raised or lowered automatically.

The renovation also will bring the David H. Koch Theater into the 21st century with the installation of dynamic new media capabilities including a complete onsite media suite with all equipment necessary for the capture and distribution of high-definition images and digital sound of performances, rehearsals and any other activities taking place in the theater. The suite also will include digital storage capabilities for materials captured by the new system, as well as materials from the Ballet and Opera archives. The theater itself will be outfitted with a number of robotic, remote-controlled cameras, as well as approximately 60 broadcast service plates located throughout the theater, providing maximum flexibility for temporarily installing and changing camera positions as needed.
While these improvements will benefit audiences of the Ballet and Opera first of all, they also will enhance the experience of other users of the theater throughout the year.

Construction at the theater will continue from now through late April, with another hiatus scheduled for New York City Balletís 2009 spring season, which runs from April 28 through June 21.

Principal funding for the renovation is provided by the $200 million joint capital campaign for the theater undertaken by New York City Ballet, New York City Opera and City Center of Music and Drama. In honor of a lead campaign gift of $100 million, the theater was named the David H. Koch Theater in fall 2008. Significant additional support in the amount of $25 million has been provided by the City of New York, the owner of the David H. Koch Theater, through the Department of Cultural Affairs with support from the City Council and the Manhattan Borough President. A portion of the Cityís support has been earmarked for a complete upgrade of the theaterís heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system.

#2 Farrell Fan

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 04:09 PM

Carpeting is being removed from the auditorium? To be replaced with acoustically enhanced linoleum?

#3 volcanohunter

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 04:29 PM

Carpeting is being removed from the auditorium? To be replaced with acoustically enhanced linoleum?

:D Removing the carpets did a great deal to improve the notoriously dry acoustics at La Scala.

...and the installation of entirely new seats that have been carefully tested for sound absorption

Meaning, they're less comforatable.

#4 abatt

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 05:38 AM

I hope this doesn't mean that they are making the size of the actual seats in the orchestra smaller. Broadway theaters are notorious for intentionally narrowing the seat sizes, and the amount of space for leg room in order to shove as many paying customers as possible into the theater.

#5 richard53dog

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 06:25 AM

I hope this doesn't mean that they are making the size of the actual seats in the orchestra smaller. Broadway theaters are notorious for intentionally narrowing the seat sizes, and the amount of space for leg room in order to shove as many paying customers as possible into the theater.


Well, the release does say that they are maintaining the "40 inch legroom" in the seats at the orchestra level. And also the overall capacity is going down by about 200. That's pretty significant in this day and age as the trend is , as you noted, to increase seating capacity, not reduce it. But time will tell.

#6 Hans

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 09:05 AM

Haven't people been complaining about the lack of side aisles in that theater for some time now?

#7 Farrell Fan

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 10:35 AM

Haven't people been complaining about the lack of side aisles in that theater for some time now?

Yes they have -- for quite a few years. As I remember though, when the New York State Theater was new, there were few, if any, such complaints. Could it be that people were slimmer then and they were able to navigate the rows without making contact with the knees or feet of the seated? Or perhaps they had fewer appendages with them -- no coats, which were usually checked, phones, laptops, or bottles of water. My wife and I had subscription seats in row G for years and we got to recognize the dancers and formed a lasting attachment to NYCB. After a while though (It may have been "Union Jack" that finally did it) we realized that we were missing a lot of the choreography by sitting in the orchestra. So we acquired subscriptions in the rings, where we could see the dancing from above and where, incidentally, there have always been side aisles. Currently I have two subscriptions in the second ring, which I think is the best part of the theater to sit in. I trust it will continue to be so in the remodeled theater.

#8 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 08:08 AM

The renovation also will bring the David H. Koch Theater into the 21st century with the installation of dynamic new media capabilities including a complete onsite media suite with all equipment necessary for the capture and distribution of high-definition images and digital sound of performances, rehearsals and any other activities taking place in the theater. The suite also will include digital storage capabilities for materials captured by the new system, as well as materials from the Ballet and Opera archives. The theater itself will be outfitted with a number of robotic, remote-controlled cameras, as well as approximately 60 broadcast service plates located throughout the theater, providing maximum flexibility for temporarily installing and changing camera positions as needed.


Does this mean that we can hope for more broadcasts or other forms of video distribution?

#9 carbro

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 02:36 PM

I hope so, Kathleen!

Meanwhile, I'm still puzzling out this line:

"Other acoustical interventions, including the removal of carpet from the auditorium and the installation of entirely new seats that have been carefully tested for sound absorption, are also being made to improve the musical experience for the audience."

Assuming that the seats are occupied by humans of a certain weight (to minimize vibrations of the seats) and clothed (to absorb sound waves) much like their predecessors from years past, how can this make a difference? :)

#10 volcanohunter

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 02:57 PM

Assuming that the seats are occupied by humans of a certain weight (to minimize vibrations of the seats) and clothed (to absorb sound waves) much like their predecessors from years past, how can this make a difference? :)

My previous experience with the installation of acoustically friendly seats is that they usually have a great deal less padding. In the case of a renovation I'm familiar with, it also meant seats that were upholstered only on the seat and the back support, the rest--legs, arm rests, the part that faces the person behind you--being all wood. I can't say that I noticed a great deal more noise coming from patrons fidgeting in their pared-down seats, but such seats are a good deal less comfortable, and the acoustics are definitely improved.

#11 carbro

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 03:56 PM

Thank you for the clear explanation, volcanohunter.

NYST never had leg rests, and armrests have always been wooden, so for those elements, no loss. But I guess the trade-off between padding depth and acoustics is a matter of personal preference. I hope they manage to strike a happy (for me :) ) medium.

#12 volcanohunter

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 09:40 PM

Yes, you're right, the seats at the State Theater never struck me as particularly luxurious, so I wouldn't expect too many changes on that score. At least their stuffing will be new. :lol:

#13 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 09:11 PM

Haven't people been complaining about the lack of side aisles in that theater for some time now?

Yes they have -- for quite a few years. As I remember though, when the New York State Theater was new, there were few, if any, such complaints. Could it be that people were slimmer then and they were able to navigate the rows without making contact with the knees or feet of the seated? Or perhaps they had fewer appendages with them -- no coats, which were usually checked, phones, laptops, or bottles of water.


I was talking about this with two other NYCB fans, and it could be that the people in the orchestra are older and therefore now less able to move and make room, or that (as anyone who has been on a bus or subway can tell you) that everyone now carries multiple parcels, bags, coats, etc. I'm guilty as the next weighed-down audience member, but every time I decide to check my stuff, the lines at the coat check just dissuade me completely.

We also felt that young people in the audience never move to let anyone pass, regardless of any requests or "excuse me's." They also don't seem to mind when you tread on them.... go figure.

#14 Jack Reed

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Posted 10 April 2009 - 12:57 PM

When I first encountered the continental seating plan, with deep rows (about 39 inches) and no aisles, in the NYST, I was skeptical, but a comparison diagram in the late George Izenour's fine book Theatre Design convinced me that this method gets more good seats into the theatre than the conventional one, with shallow rows (33 inches) and aisles. (I can't find such a diagram on line to link to here.) So I think the introduction of aisles is another bad idea. Granted, there were sometimes problems with obstacles placed in the rows instead of under the seats...

However, removing carpet is an interesting idea. The new Four Seasons Center in Toronto, which has a bare floor except for the aisles, surprised me by combining live, clear acoustics with marginal sightlines, owing to insufficient rake; usually, when I can't see well, I can't hear well, either.

As to the seat acoustics, I've thought the idea was to build a seat that has the same acoustics empty or occupied, so that the acoustician has only one situation to try to optimize, instead of one which changes according to the size of the audience.


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