Mark Lamster | Essays

Defending Alice

The new Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center opens on Sunday — it looks great — and the reviews are starting to flow in. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and fairly dismissive of the original hall, by Pietro Belluschi and Eduardo Catalano.

Yes, that building had its flaws, but I will admit that I always liked it, and not just for its rather overt references to Le Corbusier's monastery at La Tourette. The place was all concert hall, and no BS. There was no waiting hall to speak of. Just a box office. You went there, got your tickets, and before the show you stood outside gabbing on its little wedge of a plaza. Alice Tully was for serious concert-goers of the corduroy and glasses set — people who knew their classical music.

The program was always heavy on chamber music best appreciated by the initiated. There was something nice about that, something pure. But in this narcissistic age, going to the theater has become an act of theater in itself. We're the show. Tickets are pricey. You get dressed up. You need a place to parade around and have a drink at intermission. Of course theater has always been like this — just look at the Paris Opera — but Tully isn't really that kind of "major" venue. Though maybe it's becoming one. Anyhow, this Old New Yorker welcomes the fine renovation, but I'm not prepared to spit on the grave of the old place.

Posted in: Architecture, History

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