LINCOLN CENTER OF THE PERFORMING ARTS
Home of the Metropolitan Opera & N. Y. Philharmonic
Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts, built in the 1960s, is one of the largest performing arts center in the world. It is home to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the American Ballet, the New York City Ballet, the Lincoln Center Jazz Center, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Julliard School, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
The Metropolitan Opera House is the centerpiece of three large buildings in Lincoln Center Plaza. Designed by architect Wallace K. Harrison, the Opera's external has five arches that were built of travertine stone from Tivoli, Italy, the same stone used for constructing Rome’s Colosseum. The Met's contains seven full-stage elevators and two cycloramas. Two modern murals by Russian painter, Marc Chagall, greet visitors as they enter the main lobby.
The New York Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1842, is America's oldest symphony orchestra and also one of the world's oldest. A newly reconstructed hall, the David Geffen Hall, opened at Lincoln Center in October 2022. It has the best of 21st century technology and a Sidewalk Studio for lectures and small performances.
The Jazz Center of Lincoln Center, a separate building, is appropriately located in the West Fifties. West 52nd Street was once known as "Swing Street" where there were more jazz clubs than any other place in the world. These clubs included: Down Beat Club, Famous Door, Kelly's Stable, Onyx Club or Club Downbeat (where Billie Holiday often performed), Spotlite (the only black-owned club on 52nd Street), Three Deuces (to catch Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie) and the Yacht Club. (The original NYC "Swing Street" was in Harlem.)
Lincoln Center underwent a $1.2 billion major renovation in 2012. White lights light the stairs to the promenade and LED messages stroll across the stairs welcoming visitors and announcing performances. A tilting grass roof covers the Lincoln Ristorante and there's also a reflecting pool. Even the water in the plaza's fountain has been choreographed to perform and entertain. The foundation gives both day and evening performances using its 272 LED lights to brighten the shooting water, which rises to 12 feet.
"San Juan Hill," once the largest African-American community in Manhattan, was totally demolished in order that Lincoln Center could be built. Black residents were displaced and many of them moved to Harlem. There is some confusion about where the originals of the San Juan Hill name. Some say it was so named to honor the Buffalo Soldiers, NYC black veterans of the 71st Regiment Infantry, who fought with Teddy Roosevelt in the battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Others say its name is due to the large number of neighborhood gang fights between young African Americans and Irish Americans.
Lincoln Center is located uptown north of the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood where the fictional Italian and Puerto Rican youth gangs of the Sharks and the Jets battled in West Side Story. Leonard Bernstein, composer of the musical score for West Side Story, was the director of the New York Philharmonic orchestra for many years.
The scale of Lincoln Center "speaks as much of America's cultural insecurity as of its pride. In the fifties, New York was still getting used to being a world capital of culture, and its leaders were anxious to show the world that the city could value the stuff as much as money or military might. Lincoln Center was, among other things, a move in the Cold War prestige game." -- Justin Davidson, New York Magazine, May 18, 2009