Saturday, June 18, 2011

Season Finale

Saturday AM I, as I have many times, opened my drop leaf desk, reached into the far right cubby hole and got the tickets for the weekend's Kansas City Symphony concert. Emblazoned on this set was "Season Finale: Tchaikovsky's 4th", obviously signaling the end of the road for this season. But more than that, this concert is the last in the venerable, lovely, frustrating, historic, acoustically nightmarish Lyric Theatre. Many are rejoicing, awaiting the new Moshe Safdie/Yasuhisa Toyota built Kauffman Arts Center. Some old timers want to cling to the past.

Befitting a befuddled Pisces, I have mixed emotions. The Lyric is a monument to 1920's Roman influenced architecture, and was modeled after the Temple of Vesta in Rome. Built as a Shrine Temple, it has been a movie theatre, live theatre, TV studio, opera house, ballet theatre and concert hall, frequently all at once. One can only imagine the great artists who have performed on its cramped stage. As I mentioned in a past post about the last performances of the Lyric Opera, (Retirement) many patrons seem to relish the intimacy and small venue atmosphere of the Lyric while others just thought it crowded. The wonderful detail in the ceiling of the hall, the huge columns, marble and big heavy doors lent an air of solid craftsmanship.

One just had to experience a performance in the old girl to realize her major shortcomings. The stage is small and cramped, limiting what opera can do. When the chorus joined the orchestra on stage, everyone was squished together virtually sitting on top of each other. With only one theatre shared by the symphony, opera and ballet, the various groups had to often rehearse in different locations and then spend crunch time getting used to the theatre.

For us patrons, the orchestra level had more spacious seats but offered muddy, dull and often simply dead acoustics, especially if you were trapped under the balcony. From many seats you could not see past the first couple rows of the orchestra; the winds, brass and percussion could be cardboard cutouts with speakers blaring recordings for all we know. The balcony had better sound and better views, but the seats were cramped with no legroom. I think European low cost airline Ryanair was inspired by the Lyric.

Tonight I and my friend Gerry (who replaced Barbara after she moved away) will occupy Right Center Balcony Row G seats 7 and 8 for the last time. Gerry is one that is thrilled about the move as he hated the cramped seats. He liked the orchestra section, but I was a butt and refused to move. Next season is Grand Tier row AAA # 117 and 118. The ticket office fellow gleefully told me that even though the seats for the next better section were gone, these were actually closer to the stage than my old seats, and had lots of leg room. That should make Gerry happy.

I saw lots of fine productions and concerts at the old Lyric, but I guess it is time now to move on. The new center is the talk of the concert world; according to those who have tested the waters, it is superb. The orchestra's Helzberg Hall will have a fabulous 4 manual, 102 rank Casavant organ installed early next year, the opera theatre has seat back screens for translations and scene descriptions. Great things are coming.

They are having a champagne toast to say good bye to the old girl tonight (I hope they learned from the last time and do NOT pop the corks before the first half ends) and I will join all to cheer the Grande Dame's glorious past and reflect on her murky future.

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