Renovated David Geffen Hall of the New York Philharmonic Opens at Lincoln Center

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer aptly described Lincoln Center’s new David Geffen Hall at the hall’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Schumer presided over the festivities with New York Governor Kathy Hochul. The world hears every note the New York Philharmonic plays. The Philharmonic needs a concert hall befitting its reputation and stature in the music world.

David Geffen’s 2015 gift to Lincoln Center to renovate Avery Fisher Hall, which opened in 1962 with poor acoustics. Lincoln Center announced a $550 million plan in 2019 to reduce the hall’s seating capacity from 2,700 to 2,200 and improve its acoustics. The new hall was scheduled to open in March 2024.

Covid-19, which ended live performances at Geffen Hall, unexpectedly sped up Lincoln Center’s renovation, allowing it to open this fall. Schumer noted at the ribbon-cutting that the opening was “two years early.” When has a large construction project been two years early?

Lincoln Center “tried for 60 years to create a world-class venue” for the Philharmonic, said CEO Henry Timms.
“We didn’t want this to just be fantastic. We wanted it to stand for something, to reinvent the wheel of theater spaces to engage and move more people. Welcome to Lincoln Center,” he said.

Lincoln Center hired experts to accomplish its goals. Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects of New York designed the hall’s public spaces and the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt Architects designed Ottawa’s Senate Building and St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky II. Austin’s Paul Scarbrough designed the theater’s new acoustics.

The new hall features a Broadway-facing welcome center with seating and a snack cart, a double-sized lobby with Lounge seating, concessions, a bar, a 50-foot media wall restaurant by Bronx-born Top Chef Kwame Onwuachi, and a more spacious Grand Promenade.

To make Lincoln Center’s theater more accessible, architects moved the stage 25 feet forward and created wraparound seating that surrounds the orchestra. Reconstructing side tiers, resurfacing the walls, and installing an adjustable canopy over the musicians improved the hall’s acoustics.

The new design allows multiple stage configurations for solo, symphonic, popular, operatic, and film performances. The latest technology will Livestream Philharmonic performances.

Timms describes how Lincoln Center will reach new, broader audiences. The lobby media wall shows live simulcasts and art. Sidewalk Studio, a former conference room, hosts community events. Live streaming is free in the lobby for all subscription concerts and NPCs.

Lincoln Center commissioned new artworks for the hall with the Public Art Fund and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

The 200-foot-long 65th Street façade of the San Juan Heal installation. Inspired by San Juan Hill’s “rich cultural heritage and complex history,” San Juan Hill inspired Etienne Charles’ multimedia performance last month. Abney’s installation includes portraits of San Juan Hill’s pioneers and musicians, flyer text, and the word “Love.”

A Diverse Dance to the Time’s Music, a new video by Jacolby Satterwhite, is currently playing on the media wall in the hall’s lobby. According to Lincoln Center, it “tells a new narrative of the past, present, and future of Lincoln Center.”

A free “Winter Light Livestream” will be presented on the media wall in Greece’s Stavros Niarchos Center lobby at noon on December 1 to turn it into “a winter wonderland.”

Other upcoming holiday events at the hall include a “Nightcap” concert on December 3 in the Sidewalk Studio with the modern-classical quintet TAK Ensemble; a”Winter Light Livestream” with contemporary classical quintet TAK Ensemble at noon on December 1 in the lobby media wall; and show December 6 by New York Philharmonic creative partner Chris Thwaites;

PBS will broadcast the October 28 opening concert, which features Angelica Negron, a Puerto Rican composer, giving her work its world premiere and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” finale.

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