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I just got back from my first concert at the renovated and re-opened Alice Tully Hall and my first impressions are very positive. (Mark Padmore sang Schbert's Die Schöne Müllerin accompanied by Imogen Cooper, who also opened the concert with Schubert's A Major piano sonata.) The appearance of the hall itself has been vastly improved (although it still feels a bit too big and cavernous to me) and the acoustics seem much improved as well: with regard the piano, at least, the sound had more clarity and presence than I recall it having before -- the ATH acoustics used to seem dull and distant no matter where one sat, with annoying dead spots scattered throughout the hall. Since I'd never heard Padmore sing live before, I couldn't tell whether the hall was damping down his voice, or whether it simply doesn't project well. Since I was sitting dead center in row E, I unfortunately have to assume the latter.

If I were starting from scratch, I'm not sure I'd have opted for the exact configuration of the reconceived entrance and lobby, but it is a so much airier, happier space than it was in its rather dreary previous incarnation that I'm not in the least inclined to complain -- the architects did a spectacular job given what they had to work with. The big bar and lounge in the new entrance hall looks like it will be a fine place to get a drink when it's not too crowded -- i.e., during off hours or as a refuge from something you just can't bring yourself to sit though. (NYST / Koch Theatre could certainly use one of these, although ATH is close enough to dash over to during a performance of, say, Oltremare.) Alas, the jungle-print wallpaper has been stripped from the ladies' room and replaced with plain old white paint. I was hoping that they'd hang onto to that wallpaper since it more or less matched one of my raincoats and not much else does, really.

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As a former Manhattanite, I was quite interested in reading Paul Goldberger's comments in The New Yorker a while ago. The photo, taken from the back of the house, captures that "big and cavernous" quality you mention. Here, for the benefit of others who don't get to Lincoln Center as much as they'd like to, is the article:


So ... what do the rest of you think?


Thanks for finding and posting the link to Goldberger's article. I held off reading reviews of the renovated space until I got a chance to go there myself and check it out. The article describes what's been done pretty accurately, but I think it really will take a visit to appreciate it.

A couple of additional points / thoughts:

1) The hall itself still feels bigger than it is (it seats just under 1100 I think) but is, as Goldberger points out, a warmer and more intimate-seeming space than it was before. It's not anywhere near as "cozy" as Carnegie's Zankel hall (my favorite in the city). I think I might describe it as "benevolent" -- especially when the LED lights behind the (literally) paper thin wood veneer are turned on. (It's a cool effect.) I think they need to sort out the stage lighting, however. Padmore and Cooper were rather harshly lit by two overhead ceiling lights which created a kind of odd onstage and front-of-the hall glare when compared to the soft lighting of the hall.

2) I hope the beautiful pipe organ is still tucked away behind the wall at the back of the stage. I've been to a few concerts where the performers decided to open it up (even though they didn't use it) and it made a lovely backdrop. Here's a picture.

3) About a quarter to a third of the back wall of the stage is now covered with a rectangle of small, regularly spaced wooden protrusions which have presumably been added to enhance the acoustics (they look something like gently rounded rivets of graduating height or the rubber nubblies on those German sports sandals). Someone wicked will think of an appropriately witty way to describe them. They don't look bad, but trust me, there's a joke in there somewhere.

4) Goldberger leaves out one material change. Previously, the Broadway plaza in front of the ATH entrance and the entrance vestibule / box office were level with the street. You walked across the little plaza from either Broadway or 65th Street, entered into the vestibule, and then went down a wide staircase of about four or five stairs to get to the lobby proper. (At least I don't remember any plaza level stairs, except for the big set of stairs going up to the Juilliard entrance.) up Now the stairs are between the street and the (reduced) plaza itself -- i.e., you go down the wide staircase from Broadway to get to the plaza, and then it's level all the way from the plaza to the lobby. (There's also a long ramp on the 65th St side for wheechair access). I like the fact that it's level from the plaza to the lobby -- it's one of the things that makes the space feel so open (in addition to all the glass, of course). I'm not sure I like the stairs down from Broadway, although there would have been no way to avoid them once the decision was made to keep the plaza, entrance, and lobby all on one level. (I didn't notice any handrails anywhere -- but I was rushing to get in on time -- so the maintenance folks had better be super-vigilant about keeping those steps clear in the winter ... )** A 15-20 foot high triangular riser of stair steps echoing the steps down to the plaza sits at the B'way / 65th street triangle (roughly where the escalator to Juilliard used to be) and faces in towards the entrance hall: this is the one design element that I need to really look at again in daylight and think about. I wasn't wild about it last night, but it deserves a second look. I'm not describing any of this well -- you need to go have a look for yourselves and grab some coffee or wine at that nice bar.

** OK, I just found a photo that very clearly shows handrails. Whew!

If you search "Alice Tully Hall" in Google images you'll pull up lots of pictures. But there's no better place to start than this 2005 Curbed post, especially if you've read enough gushing in the press and are in the mood for a little snark:Alice Tully Hall Cleans up All Pretty

Edited to add the architects' rendering of the entrance hall bar / lounge area, looking out. There are comfy chairs and tables now in front of the bar where the people in the picture are walking. Scroll down to the last image on the left and click on it for the full color version.

Edited again to add a link to Curbed's latest, which includes actual pictures in addition to the architects' renderings. It appears that the bar is really a cafe that serves actual food.

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Yes, thank you Kathleen. Very vivid reporting, in my book. :)

Just wanted to add one note: I'm delighted that the hall still bears Alice Tully's name. Miss Tully was one of the most wonderful of ladies and most generous of philanthropists -- a great patron of music especially. It's nice to know that there's stilll a Tully Hall and that it's better than ever.

Re: the Curbed article. I certainly liked this:

Says the Times caption, "While this part of the campus may never approximate the grand swirl of the main fountain plaza, the architects want it to have an energy of its own." Translation: accumulated blowing McDonalds wrappers will not be tolerated for the first three months of the project's lifespan.
Snarky, indeed. But also true, true, true.
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Has anyone else been there yet?

Lee Rosenbaum has, and written another lively account, with pictures:


(It's in two parts, scroll down) In one of those pictures (second from the last, looking toward the Met), it looks like there are several steps down from the plaza to the ATH lobby, which contradicts what Kathleen O'Connell said. What don't I understand?

The idea of keeping Alice Tully's name on the building is a nice one by me, and surprising, too. Usually, the person who pays for the re-do has their name on it. (I'm going to revise my will, and leave money to some college for a building to be called Anonymous Hall, just to spite those egos.)

Anyway, I'll probably walk by come June on my way to Workshop, and glance at it, and post another harumph, but for now all the exterior pictures make me shudder at all the colliding lines and violently hacked masses. I've never liked postmodernism, and this example makes the kitsch Met in the background of some of the pictures look positively distinguished to me by contrast.

But what really counts is how well you can see and hear in the place. A dead spot smack in the middle of the orchestra seats (normally the best location) wouldn't be unprecedented. Even Carnegie Hall was supposed to have one just behind the middle of the main floor, I've been told, though in my limited experience in there it was the best concert hall I'd ever listened in, even when I deliberately tried to get bad results in a cheap seat (a back corner of the balcony).

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Has anyone else been there yet?

Lee Rosenbaum has, and written another lively account, with pictures:


(It's in two parts, scroll down) In one of those pictures (second from the last, looking toward the Met), it looks like there are several steps down from the plaza to the ATH lobby, which contradicts what Kathleen O'Connell said. What don't I understand?


I think I didn't explain clearly -- there are steps from the sidewalk along B'way down to a sunken plaza, then no steps from there.

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(a back corner of the balcony)

The balcony of Carnegie Hall had a very nice balance of sound, especially near the walls. Balcony seats, though small, were a great bargain. But Alice Tully Hall was always supposed to have relatively good sound--it's only an 1,100 seat recital hall, and over 2,000 seats is where things get acoustically iffy. The original Pietro Belluschi building, at least seen way in the background, is really not that bad and the new little architectural touches by Diller, Scofidio--sliding the windows over the travertine, like misapplied lipstick--are a bit coy and about 20 years out of date. The addition of the big lobby and social space is an enormous plus (though again the sharp angles, like the raked stem of a ship, have been done to death since the early 1980's).

I'm wondering if the positive critical response to the new Alice Tully is a little bit of a reaction to the remodeling of the lollipop building on Columbus Circle, where the nice tapering curve and the reactionary modernist argument of a building have been shrouded under a piano cover with wormy peepholes. Paul Goldberger gave Two Columbus Circle something of a pass and Nikolai Ouroussoff was very disappointed with the changes--we were left with a image of New York scrubbed on any meaning, he said.

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I love it!!!

EXTERIOR: I've admired it since it was partially unveiled in December. It has the look of an elegant cruise liner docking at Lincoln Center, giving a nod to New York's maritime beginnings and to the river down the block.

The facade is open, airy, accessible and user friendly. Lots of places to sit and a Staircase That Goes Nowhere to hang out. No plantings but those poor old trees didn't thrive there anyway.

The box office has its own space and there were three windows open tonight (as opposed to the former two) and no waiting. One can enter the interior from the box office (through the cafe) or via steps from Broadway or 65th Street (there's also a ramp on the 65th Street side). The outer lobby is spacious and the Tully folks are welcoming.

INTERIOR: There is a wonderful vastness to the outer lobby space and it segues into the theater lobby proper in a lyric fashion. The cafe has a bar & a good deal of seating, some of it on sofas. On the 65th Street side there are also tables & seating for the BYO crowd.

There is now handbag/parcel inspection, at the ticket gates.

The Morgan Stanley (inner) Lobby has a much higher ceiling than before, with lovely wood paneling. The doors to the balcony are now on the far right and left of the inner wall. In the middle, where the old balcony entry used to be, is an elevator and stairs down to additional restrooms. The old restrooms are still where they were, as is the coat check. The "boutique" has its own kiosk and there are two small bars.

THEATER: Quite gorgeous. The ceiling here has also been raised, by a lot! There appear to be fewer seats across in the orchestra and the Loge is further back, not overhanging the orchestra anymore.

The seats are soooo comfortable! Slate grey in color. The walls are warm reddish wood. Quite elegant.

Acoustics: I liked the old Tully acoustic for lieder and song recitals and small chamber groups. A bit dry but true. No reverb (except from the occasional subway going by). When it came to larger chamber groups and orchestral programs is where things got dicey. The new acoustic is warmer and livelier. Tonight's performance was orchestral - a new "opera" by Martynov. The strings were almost unbearably sweet, beautiful. The woodwinds and lower brass were friendly, but in declamatory passages the horns and trumpets gave me a feeling of being goosed.

Padmore also sang tonight. He's a singer I much admired in his early days with Wm Christie's Les Arts Florrisants. It is not a strictly beautiful voice but he's such an excellent singer and had no problems being heard tonight from where we sat Orchestra left.

As for Vita Nuova (based on the Dante), I must admit going in with a chip on my shoulder after reading the composer's quote of the "last great opera" being Wozzeck. Well, so much for R. Strauss, Britten, Adams, Golijov, et al, to say nothing of Turandot. Sung in three sections, in three languages (thank heaven for Tully's excellent titles) and three musical forms, it resembled a casserole made with too many ingredients. Take out the onions and the eggplant and the cardomom and you have a better tasting dish.

But where it was beautiful it sounded very beautiful. It will remain to be seen (heard) whether or not the hall's acoustic is as friendly to song & small chamber recitals. And Haydn and Handel brasses.

This is the only theater in the complex that truly invites one in. Fisher resembles the New Mexico State Penitentiary; the State/Koch is sterile and the Met, with the exception of the (about to be mortgaged) Chagalls and perhaps the arches, no great beauty. All have entry/outer lobby problems. And box office hassles. And long lines on a busy night.

No, it doesn't "match" the rest of the complex. And praise be for that.

Hurray for Diller Scofido + Renfro!

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OT, re the NYCB / Koch family relationship:

"....the Koch family, the multibilllionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of scores of rightwing thinktanks and advocacy groups, from the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine to FreedomWorks. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was a co-founder of the notorious extremist-rightwing John Birch Society.”

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Thanks so much for your vivid description, zerbinetta.

The keeper of the blog "Walking Off The Big Apple",* has posted seven very interesting pix (mostly exteriors) on her Flickr page:


*Disclaimer: a friend.

Yes, many thanks to everyone here who has helped the non-New Yorkers among us picture and imagine these exciting changes. And carbro, I've just bookmarked your friend's site.

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