Cincinnati's Music Hall to Get Makeover

Classic Arts News   Cincinnati's Music Hall to Get Makeover
Cincinnati's Music Hall, the home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and a National Historic Landmark, will get its first major renovation in over three decades, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer.

On Monday (November 27), officials revealed the issues they will address in the proposed remodeling of the 128-year-old venue. However, it could be months, according to the paper, before the Music Hall Working Group makes any decisions regarding architectural solutions and their costs.

Music Hall, a multipurpose venue, was originally built for the choral concerts of Cincinnati May Festival in 1878. The renovation aims to increase the intimacy between the players and the audience while preserving the legendary sound of the hall, where Telarc records the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops.

The two companies working on the renovation, Jaffe Holden Acoustics and Fisher Dachs Associates Theatre Planning and Design (both of which worked on the 2000 renovation of Cleveland's 1931 Severance Hall), are confident that the historic character of the building won't be destroyed, according to the Enquirer.

The project could possibly involve reducing the capacity of Music Hall's 3,400-seat Springer Auditorium — many Cincinnati Symphony concerts suffer from empty seat syndrome, though Cincinnati Opera can pull in more than 3,000 people for popular favorites like Aida, according to the paper. Other proposed changes include adding an upscale restaurant, gift shop, bar or donor lounge; improving backstage technology; upgrading staff offices; and building an entry from a planned new parking garage. The price tag, writes the Enquirer, could go above $35 million.

It is not clear where the Cincinnati Symphony, May Festival and Cincinnati Opera, all of which use Music Hall as their main venue, would perform while the building is under construction.

The Enquirer writes that one option could be a flexible reconfiguration of Springer Auditorium, whose layout would change according to the needs of the tenants. It could mean making the hall smaller, according to Steven Monder, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra president.

Others in the industry have voiced concern that the orchestra hasn't examined closely enough the reasons behind the empty seats. The paper quotes Karen McKim, executive director of the Cincinnati-based Corbett Foundation — which paid $400,000 for new seating about 15 years ago — as saying, "I wonder if they've looked at all the questions — why is it not full?"

Patricia Beggs, CEO and general director of Cincinnati Opera, told the paper that fewer seats would mean more performances.

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