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Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center (99)

The Lincoln Center recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Half a century at the service of the arts.

It all started in mid-1950, when the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic needed a new home. Thanks to a 1949 decree, which allowed the demolishment of private homes provided that the space were to be used for artistic activities, the city decided to buy property in the run-down West Side. That's how the project got its start.

It was directed by John Rockefeller III and the famous property developer Robert Moses.

And it was President Eisenhower who laid down the first stone in May 1959.

As a fun fact, we can tell you that before the buildings were demolished, the West Side location – its streets, squares and rooftops – was used to shoot one of the great classics of musical theatre: West Side Story.

Built between 1962 and 1968, Lincoln Center, which stretches over almost 65,000 square metres and comprises various buildings, is now one of the largest centres for music and the performing arts in the world. Given the sizes of its various halls, the centre can accommodate an audience of over 18,000 people in a single night, and its over 3,000 performances annually attract more than 5 million viewers.

The three main buildings are grouped around the central square, the Fountain Plaza. It is said that its architectural composition was inspired by Michelangelo’s plan for the civic centre of the Capitoline Hill in Rome. All the marble used in the construction was imported from Italy, meaning over 7,300 tons of travertine. If you look towards the west, you will see the New York State Theater to your left. This theatre was designed in 1964 by Philip Johnson and Richard Foster, and is home to the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera.

The Metropolitan Opera House, built in 1966 by architect Wallace K. Harrison, will rise in front of you. Among the highlights of its facade are the 5 large glass arches that let you see through to the interior of the building. Thick red carpets, marble, gold leaf, a spectacular stairway and, above all, two huge Chagall murals: "The Triumph of Music" and "The Sources of Music", although normally these can only be seen after dark, because during the day, when the sun shines, they are hidden under large curtains. The building is also home to the Metropolitan Opera and the American Ballet. It is the largest auditorium of its kind in the world.

And if you look to your right, you will see the Avery Fisher Hall, designed by Max Abramovitz in 1962, although part of the building was torn down in 1976 because the acoustics were so poor that decided to rebuild it. The result went on to excite both performers and audiences. The building is now the headquarters of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Although the Lincoln Center encompasses other buildings, we would like to draw your attention to the Vivian Beaumont Theater, comprising two halls that are renowned for the quality of its performances. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts houses a large collection of valuable documents and media from the early 20th century, including books, records, as well as videos of dance performances, music concerts and plays. Then there is also the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, the famous school of music, dance and drama founded in 1904, training the next great choreographers, dancers, musicians and actors of our time. The school boasts alumni such as actors Robin Williams and Kevin Kline, and celebrities such as, for instance, Kevin Spacey, have lectured there.

It would be great you could plan your visit during the celebration of the Lincoln Center Festival, held over a period of three weeks during the summer, and featuring a multitude of activities, concerts, dance performances and theatre plays... or during the celebration of the Midsummer Night Swing, a summer event during which Josie Robertson Plaza is filled with thousands of dancers moving to the rhythms of swing, but also merengue, rock and even polka. It is a spectacular event. In August, there is also a festival dedicated to Mozart and other classical composers, while in August do not miss out on the free events held at the Lincoln Center Plaza ("Out of Doors" events), which are simply fantastic. With all year round concerts, performances and festivals, Lincoln Center is a very active centre for promoting the arts, a space that lives and breathes talent.

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