With City Opera’s Departure, Big Vacancy at Koch Theater
Wanted: One intrepid cultural organization to share the cost of operating a Lincoln Center theater that recently lost one of its tenants to financial difficulties. Must be able to balance a budget and attract large audiences with programming dynamic enough to fill 2,600 seats.
Financially healthy, reliably popular performing arts organizations are not so easy to come by these days, as the David H. Koch Theater goes searching for a major tenant to replace New York City Opera, which is expected to move out of its longtime home.
The opera company decided several months ago that it could no longer afford to operate at Lincoln Center and would instead become a roving troupe, leaving the country's largest performing arts complex with one less cultural anchor.
City Opera had shared the Koch Theaterformerly known as the New York State Theaterwith the New York City Ballet for more than 40 years.
Major dance companies have already begun to express interest in performing on the Koch Theater's storied stageonce the province of the choreographer George Balanchineparticularly since the hall was recently renovated. But as a matter of stability, officials said, they are seeking long-term commitments from a company or companies that would perform there regularly.
Peter Martins, the ballet company's ballet master in chief, has long talked of making the theater a world destination for dance. When City Opera looked to build a new home elsewhere a few years ago, he suggested replacing it with a modern-dance company. Could this be the moment?
Another potential anchor tenant could be Lincoln Center Inc. itself, the parent organization that coordinates matters on the performing arts campus for 12 constituent organizations. It has always had to schedule its eventslike Great Performers and Mostly Mozartaround the regular seasons of its constituents.
There has also been persistent speculation that American Ballet Theater, which now performs nearby at the Metropolitan Opera House, would take over the space if City Opera left. Were it to move, Ballet Theater would no longer have overlapping seasons with City Ballet. But even if City Ballet agreed to coexist with what many consider a competitor, such a move would only transfer the vacancy from the Koch Theater to the opera house.