There is no thrill for you or the kids like seeing a grand musical spectacle in person. Television pales by comparison to seeing a large stage, magically lit, with the finest performers right in front of you. Do not visit the big city without a visit to the opera, ballet, or a concert of some sort.
881 7th Avenue (at West 57th Street)
West 57th Street-7th Avenue station (N, Q, R, or W train)
Carnegie Hall has been the standard for performance excellence in New York City and the world for more than 100 years. Legendary musicians, vocalists, dancers, and even speakers, including authors and politicians, have graced the hallowed stage of this international institution. The history of the hall and the esteemed artists who have played in it have created a tradition greater than the building itself.
Construction began on Carnegie Hall in 1890 at an eventual cost of more than $2 million. The building opened in 1891 with five days of performances that attracted New York's high society. In the audience were the Rockefellers, Whitneys, and Fricks, all listening to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky play for them.
The six-story structure encompasses a main hall (Isaac Stern Auditorium) seating 2,800, a recital hall (Zankel Hall) seating 600, and a chamber hall (Weil Recital Hall) seating 270.
While many people associate Carnegie Hall with classical music, its performance scope over the decades has included legendary artists in every performing category, including jazz (Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Benny Goodman), rock (Paul McCartney and Roger Daltrey), folk (Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Arlo Guthrie), and popular (Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, and even the Beatles). Carnegie Hall has also been the platform from which history's great orators have spoken: Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, and Woodrow Wilson are part of the legacy. The hall also plays host to young people's concerts and radio and television broadcasts.
Carnegie Hall was almost demolished in 1960 when the New York Philharmonic Orchestra moved uptown to Lincoln Center. Fortunately, after a great upswell of protest, fueled by the building's own singular history and acoustics (“It has been said that the hall itself is an instrument,” Isaac Stern remarked) it was saved and eventually refurbished to its former architectural glory in 1986.
There is a gift shop on the premises, as well as a small exhibit at the Rose Museum (both are located at 154 West Fifty-seventh Street, on the second floor) that features noteworthy items from performers who have graced the great stage. There is no cost for admission, and it is open seven days a week from 11
Tours of the premises are available Monday through Friday at 11:30
Columbus Avenue (between West 62nd and West 65th streets)
West 66th Street-Lincoln Center station (1 train); for Rose Hall use the 59th Street-Columbus Circle station (A, B, C, D, or 1 train)
The premier performing arts complex in the world, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts occupies sixteen acres of Manhattan's Upper West Side. Home to twelve performing arts companies and educational institutions, the renowned multibuilding complex attracts more than five million visitors annually at its twenty-two venues.
One of the highlights of the holiday season is the annual performance of George Balanchine's
Originally conceived in the 1950s, the complex is a result of a search for a new home for the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Company. It opened in the fall of 1962. On opening night, Leonard Bernstein and the Philharmonic Orchestra played in front of a live audience of 3,000 people plus a television audience of twenty-six million. The companies that call Lincoln Center home are world-renowned and include the following.
The New York Philharmonic
Avery Fisher Hall
Columbus Avenue and West 65th Street (north end of the plaza)
The nation's oldest orchestra was founded in 1842. The New York Philharmonic plays more than 180 concerts a year to audiences totaling more than a million people. This includes the annual visit to Central Park for a special performance under the stars, where the
The New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
Columbus Avenue and West 63rd Street (south side of the plaza)
The New York City Ballet features the choreography of its founders, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, who started the company in 1948. It moved to Lincoln Center in 1964. The company performs for six months at Lincoln Center, spends summers at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (in Saratoga Springs, New York), and tours the world the rest of the time. The ballet company has many programs for kids and families; go to the Web site for details.
The Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera House
Columbus Avenue and West 63rd Street (west side of the plaza)
In existence since 1883, the Metropolitan Opera performs more than two dozen operas annually to an enthusiastic audience of 800,000 people. This is a good venue to introduce your kids to opera; individual screens at each seat provide subtitled translations throughout the performance. An art gallery, Schwartz Gallery Met, located in the southside lobby, is open free to the public every day during the season. The Metropolitan Opera is aggressively seeking new audiences with new ideas and outreach programs, including tours of the facility and reduced-price tickets.
The New York City Opera
New York State Theatre
Columbus Avenue and West 63rd Street (south side of the plaza)
Began as “the people's opera company,” this is the city's more innovative opera organization (they introduced subtitling). The New York City Opera performs new, offbeat, and American operas at family-friendly prices. Although not as well known as the Metropolitan Opera, this in no way a second-class citizen — both Beverly Sills and Placido Domingo began their careers here. The season runs from September through November and again in March and April.
Lincoln Center is an ideal destination year round. During the warmer months in the evening you are likely to find outdoor entertainment under the stars, such as the fun-filled Midsummer Night Swing from mid-June to mid-July, featuring bands and dancers from around the world.
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Alice Tully Hall
Columbus Avenue and West 65th Street
Dedicated to bringing the beauty of 300 years of chamber music to connoisseurs and newbies alike, this is one of the world's premiere societies. It performs in several venues around town, so see its Web site. If you love chamber music, this is the place to go.
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Amsterdam Avenue and West 65th Street (northwest corner of the plaza)
The New York Public Library has one of the world's most comprehensive collections devoted to the performing and recording arts. There is an extensive collection of plays and audio recordings. The library presents free music and dance performances, lectures, play readings, and discussions throughout the year.Other Attractions
Also on the Lincoln Center grounds are the small Walter Reade Theater, which shows award-winning independent and foreign films, run by the Film Society of Lincoln Center; the Gallery at Lincoln Center, both an art shop and gallery; the Juilliard School and its Sharp Theater; Alice Tully Hall; Lincoln Center Plaza; and the Guggenheim Band Shell at Damrosch Park, which hosts outdoor concerts and events for up to 3,000 people.
While strolling the grounds, you will see the brilliant murals in the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House, the architecture and grandeur of these buildings, and the fountains that are the Lincoln Center's centerpiece (and a wonderful family photo op).
Most performances take place between September and May, when the opera season, Great Performances series, and ballet companies are running. Mostly Mozart takes place during the summer; other events take place throughout the year, from outdoor concerts and meet-the-artist nights to the New York Film Festival. There are events for children of all ages. For group events, such as Sea and Symphony, which includes lunch on a yacht and a meet-the-artist program, call the Lincoln Center Visitors' Services at 212-875-5370.
You can buy gifts at the Performing Arts Shop and the Gallery (concourse level under the plaza), and at gift shops at the Met, Fisher Hall, and Juilliard. For grub, grab a light snack at the Espresso Bar in Fisher Hall, or dine there at Panevino Restaurant, the Promenade Café in the New York State Theater, or at the Met's Grand Tier Restaurant overlooking Lincoln Center.
TADA! Youth Theater, with slightly fewer than 100 seats, features performances for kids and their families, presented by kids ages eight through eighteen. The theater is at 15 West Twenty-eighth Street (between Fifth Avenue and Broadway), West Twenty-eighth Street station (N, R, or W train). Call 212-252-1619.
Several tours are offered at Lincoln Center. The guided tour includes the Metropolitan Opera House, Avery Fisher Hall, and New York State Theater, taking you backstage where you may get a glimpse of a rehearsal in progress. A one-hour tour is given four times a day; the fee is $15 for adults, $12 for students, and $8 for children twelve and younger.
There are also specialty tours, such as the Guided Tour of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and accessible tours for persons who use wheelchairs and/or American Sign Language (conducted on the last Thursday of every month). For reservations and information call 212-875-5350. Lincoln Center is undergoing a major modernization of its concert halls and public spaces, so times and stops may be affected.