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Former President of Lincoln Center Writes Tell-All Book

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The former president of Lincoln Center has written a book, which will be published shortly. Apparentlhy it addresses all kinds of hot topics, including the demise of City Opera and the tenure of Peter Gelb.

Of interest to ballet fans is that the book also apparently praises the management of City Ballet, particularly Kathryn Brown. FYI, Brown is the architect of the NYCB game practice of closing down the third and fourth rings of the Koch Theater in order to artificially limit the supply of available NYCB tickets. She is also the architect of the price gouging dynamic pricing instituted at NYCB. I guess it's no surprise that a millionaire like Levy would find these developments worthy of praise. He should stop by the theater on a night when the program is relatively weak and see all the empty seats to truly evaluate the effect of these policies.

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I haven't seen the book, of course, not even NYCB much since Martins took it over, but I find some irony in the idea of closing off the upper balconies ("Rings" for the uninitiated; they're the old-fashioned horse-shoe shaped ones) to pump up the ticket prices.

The irony is in what seems to be the contemporary marketing strategy of "involving" the audience market with the dancers as people, via social and other media, vs. the old days when it was the every-nighters in the top of the house who figured out the names of all the dancers, right down to the bottom of the corps, by watching them dance. Now, how many can afford to do that? (I think there was also some thought then that when this mostly-young audience grew up and made more money, they would pay more and move downstairs.)

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This certainly rings true to me:

These mammoth multipurpose campuses, comparatively few of which house fully professional performing-arts ensembles of any distinction and most of whose auditoriums are far too large for the groups that they do house, have inevitably been forced to shortchange the fine arts in order to stay afloat. Most of them now spend more time presenting rock bands and Broadway road shows than operas, ballets, or orchestral concerts.

One of the reasons this is true around here is because 18 years ago the local symphony orchestra finally moved out of the oversized hangar auditorium with its abysmal acoustics into a proper new concert hall. Now the opera company would like to follow suit by building a more sensibly sized and properly designed opera house and bring the ballet company along. But I wonder whether such plans are feasible outside huge metropolises. The symphony orchestra had always given a substantial number of concerts, in addition to acting as pit orchestra for the opera and ballet. But the opera and ballet companies wouldn't be able to present enough performances, even if they were to increase in number to accommodate the existing audience in a smaller hall, to keep an opera house occupied most of the year. I fear it would result in yet another insufficiently occupied venue. I'm sure there are many equally awful multipurpose halls out there, suitable in reality only for amplified music, but what can be done with them now that they've been built? Knock them down?

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