My wife suggested we go this morning to the opening celebration of the new Marion McCaw Hall at the Seattle Center & I’m glad she did. We have subscribed in the past to the Symphony and Ballet while they were resident companies at the old Opera House, which preceded this iteration. The old building was pretty much a horror show. It looked like it came out of the sleek, anonymous architecture of the 1950s. The acoustics were abysmal. In order to get to the top tier you had to wend you way up a zigzag maze of tunnel like ramps. Once up in the top tiers you were so far above and away from the action you almost didnt feel you were in the hall.
I must admit I was a doubter about this project. As former New Yorkers, my wife and I are used to venues like Carnegie Hall and performances like those of New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera. While Seattle’s cultural scene is fairly good, it just can’t measure up to New York’s. The Symphony, while playing in a great hall, doesn’t measure up to the sound of its own hall. While PNB is an excellent company, for some reason most of its performances seem to be half-full. It gives the impression of a community that doesn’t appreciate its own artistic resources. Therein lay our doubts about whether Seattle could really pull this project off. In addition, the old hall was so bad, I just didn’t see how it could be rescued or revived.
The old hall was razed down to its I-beams and then rebuilt from within. I dont know how they did it, but theyve accomplished something remarkable. I predict that like Benaroya Hall and EMP, McCaw Hall will become another ‘destination’ magnet for tourists and art lovers alike.
Everything about the old hall is a distant memory once you see the new one. It is magnificent. It has an undulating glass fa硤e and the interior lobby has a set of tall metallic columns that is contemporary in style without being completely impersonal & antiseptic (as much clean, sleep contemporary architecture can be). The hall itself is gorgeous and elegant. The sound for musical performance is miles better than the old hall. It may not equal Benaroya Halls, but then again McCaw was built for opera and ballet and so has different requirements. The halls visual lines are harmonious and consistent. The site lines are excellent. While I didnt like the boxes because they were raked at a steep angle & felt like you were on top of the performance, all the other seats were great. Even the food quality is a
vast improvement over the old halls (though a tad pricey).
Im not sure I like the metallic scrims lining the passageway in front of the hall. I understand that each of these scrims will be lit at night and the sight promises to be impressive. But the scrim wall of metal blocks the view of the beautiful glass fa硤e, which is unfortunate.
For more, see Marion McCaw Hall. I say, go and enjoy!