North American Opera Companies Open New Venues During 2006-07 Season
Other Companies in Construction Phase With New Homes
OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, announces that two North American opera companies will each inaugurate magnificent new theaters in major celebrations during their 2006-07 seasons. Two other American companies have major construction efforts underway with anticipated theater openings in the next 2-3 years, joining a roster of recently completed opera facilities.
“Opera in North America continues to flourish with more than half of today’s companies having been founded after 1970,” stated Marc A. Scorca, OPERA America’s President and CEO. “New opera houses, whether flexible venues or completely opera-specific, are a testament to the continued growth of the field, a community’s commitment to supporting their local opera company, and a permanent investment in opera’s future.”
Canadian Opera Company celebrated the opening of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in downtown Toronto with a new production of Wagner’s monumental Ring Cycle, an undertaking that requires ambition, seriousness and a significant financial commitment. The Four Seasons Centre opened in mid-September. Designed by Toronto architect Jack Diamond, the Four Seasons Centre integrates the best features of the grand European opera houses with innovative technology in acoustics and sightlines. As well as being the new home of the Canadian Opera Company, the Four Seasons Centre is also the performance venue for The National Ballet of Canada. It will attract international-caliber artists in both opera and dance along with international attention.
Opening in downtown Miami in October 2006, the magnificent Carnival Center, designed by world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, includes the 2,400-seat Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House, the 2,200-seat Knight Concert Hall, a 200-seat black box Studio Theater, the Peacock Education Center, a restored Art Deco Tower, and the Parker and Vann Thomson Plaza for the Arts that will unite the Center buildings across Biscayne Boulevard and provide a setting for outdoor entertainment and informal gatherings. The Carnival Center will be a Miami venue not only for its four resident companies (Concert Association of Florida, Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet, and New World Symphony), but also for many smaller South Florida arts organizations.
Florida Grand Opera’s first production in the new Center will feature Verdi’s monumental Aida. With more than 200 performers and spectacular new sets and costumes designed by Allen Charles Klein, the production will be directed by Bliss Hebert. American soprano Angela Brown will be joined by tenor Andrew Richards as Radames. Aida will be conducted by FGO Music Director Stewart Robertson.
Additional North American opera companies are planning and constructing new performance venues. The Dallas Opera is preparing to move into a world-class theater designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Norman Foster. The Opera’s new venue at the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts is made possible by a lead gift of $42 million from Bill and Margot Winspear, longtime Board members and for whom the new opera house will be named. The Dallas Opera anticipates beginning to perform in the Winspear Opera House during 2009.
Austin Lyric Opera is making progress in a major “eco-friendly” effort in the building of the Long Center for the Performing Arts overlooking the heart of downtown Austin. Sixty-five percent of the former Palmer Auditorium is being reused in the Center’s construction, including the concrete flooring of the auditorium. The floor will be moved outdoors to form a plaza/terrace area open to the sky with the ring beam that encircled the auditorium and the columns holding it up. In addition to reusing the flooring, nearly 48 million pounds of materials were excavated from the site, most of which was recycled. More than 10 million pounds of Palmer concrete has become road base and other products. Nearly two million pounds of metal has been re-smelted for construction, and more than 34 million pounds of dirt removed from the site has been reused in other locations. A total of 97.6% of the materials removed from the site are being used in other ways, with only 1.1 million pounds of scraps sent to a landfill. The recycling efforts are paying off financially—the total construction cost of the Long Center is estimated to be $53 million dollars, a fraction of the cost of most new performance venues. Long Center officials estimate that the facility will be constructed at a cost of $278 per square foot versus the national average of more than $600 per foot for performing arts halls.
Numerous opera companies have completed new “opera centers” that include office, rehearsal and production facilities. The most recent such opera center was completed this past spring by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. The Sally S. Levy Opera Center is in close proximity to Opera Theatre’s renamed performance facility, the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University. “We are tremendously excited that these new venues and support facilities will add to the quality of creativity of opera in the decades ahead,” Scorca commented.
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