Saturday, March 28, 2009

David H. Koch Theater Gets Aisles

This item came across my desk, and strikes me as very welcome news indeed! Note: The David H. Koch Theater is the Lincoln Center space that used to be called the New York State Theatre. If you've ever seen a show there, you'll know why the aisles are such a necessary innovation.

As construction resumes at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, following a scheduled hiatus for New York City Ballet's 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 theater's 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 theater's seating plan and retain its generous 40-inch legroom and unparalleled sightlines. The new side aisles will be carved into the orchestra's 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.

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

"We 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," 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 orchestra's sound in the theater, and improve conditions for the Opera's 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.

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