Curtain goes up at the New World Symphony’s new home

By David Fleshler

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the New World Symphony in the opening ceremonies of the New World Center Tuesday night in Miami Beach. Photo: Rui Dias-Adios

The New World Symphony held the opening ceremonies of its modernist new campus in Miami Beach Tuesday evening, with speeches, a few morsels of music and a well-deserved air of self-congratulations.

The orchestra’s founder and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas walked out on the stage of the compact 756-seat concert hall and—before leading the orchestra in a note of music—received a standing ovation from an audience of patrons, public officials, musicians and other guests. He turned, signaled the snare drum and led the audience in The Star-Spangled Banner, as the huge video screens above the orchestra displayed images of Mount Rushmore, the U.S. Constitution, fireworks and the Statue of Liberty.

“It’s a really wonderful night that we have to remember and celebrate in one another’s company,” Tilson Thomas said.

He led the orchestra in spirited accounts of Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila Overture, the last section of Gershwin’s An American in Paris and Ginastera’s Malambo from Estancia.

From a seat on the far right side and near the basses, it was clear the hall had a much bigger, richer sound than the orchestra’s old home at the Lincoln Theatre. Another indication of the hall’s sound came in an arrangement of a movement of a Bach cello suite by the orchestra’s conducting fellow Teddy Abrams, which used small groups of musicians deployed on four or five of the small auxiliary stages that hang over the main hall. As the melody moved from violin to cello to bassoon at different points around the hall, the sound remained bright and clear, in an impressive display of the hall’s acoustics.

The stylish, $160 million hall designed by the celebrated architect Frank Gehry contains practice rooms, administrative offices, a rehearsal and chamber music space that seats 170 and the main hall. The six-story atrium is centered around a glass bar dramatically lit in blue light. Outside a 7,000-square foot projection wall facing a new city park will allow people to watch concerts and films.

Gehry came on stage and spoke of what he tried to accomplish, saying he had hoped to create a building that would respect the surrounding neighborhood rather than appearing as an intruder.

“Two or three years from now, it should become as if it was always there, like it was inevitable,” he said. “That’s how I like new buildings to be.”

After the ceremonies in the hall, the audience adjourned for picnic dinners in the adjacent park constructed as part of the campus by the City of Miami Beach.

Now that the speeches have been made, the real test comes this week in a series of concerts that will display the hall’s capabilities. At the opening concert tonight, Tilson Thomas will lead the orchestra in Wagner’s Overture to The Flying Dutchman, Copland’s Symphony No. 3 and the world premiere of Thomas Adès’ Polaris, with film by the video artist Tal Rosner. Thursday will be a concert devoted to Schubert, with the auxiliary stages used to move swiftly among the composer’s symphonic, vocal and chamber works, and Sunday will be two free concerts of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition accompanied by short movies by University of Southern California film students.

The New World Symphony’s opening concerts continue through Sunday.; 305-673-3331.

Posted in Performances

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Wed Jan 26, 2011
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