The Prickle (@ThePrickle) October 28, 2022
Two? Fifty? Sixty years? How ever long you’ve been waiting for this new David Geffen Hall, hearing it is an occasion and this particular occasion has drawn out quite the crowd. This is the sort of evening where the big names weighing down the stage (and there are plenty) are matched/exceeded by the names in the audience. Are you a senator? A mayor? The owner of an NFL team? A Martha Stewart? Miss New York? Is your name emblazoned on the building? Well, you’re probably here and ready to be bowled over by an 11-course meal of a musical indulgence as the NY Phil celebrates the start of a new era long in the making.
Enjoy the occasional overture? Fantastic — the opening gala has about four of them. The Star Spangled Banner gets everyone up on their feet, Katherine Farley (Chair of Lincoln Center) delivers the first of various congratulatory speeches and the New York Philharmonic Chorus release a rousing Hallelujah Chorus. Overture three is an actual overture —from Bernstein’s Candide— before the star-power really gets going in the form of Alicia Key’s modern-day classic ‘New York’. Having gotten the acoustic of the hall nice and loose, tonight’s conductor Rob Mathes sets the orchestra to ‘musical swing’ and we really get going with a tribute to artists, composers and lyricists who called New York home. Bernadette Peters leads off with some Rodgers and Hammerstein, Brian Stokes Mitchell follows with Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Lush Life’ and Renée Fleming arrives to contribute some Cole Porter. It is in Renée’s number that the ‘harmony’ between construction teams spoken of in the video projected earlier in the evening starts manifesting on stage. The orchestra are settling in, Fleming nurses a delightful ‘Down in the Depths (on the Ninetieth Floor)’ and gives James Genus an encouraging ‘YES!’ as he takes an acoustic bass solo. The house band’s sounding good.
Leonard Bernstein was here 60 years ago to open Lincoln Center with the NY Phil and his daughter Jamie is on hand to (a) share in the giddiness of the night and (b) confirm for any confused parties at this feast that the family name rhymes with ‘dine’. Now follow big-hitters undoubtedly influenced by Lenny’s legacy built so much out of this hall: Joaquina Kalukango, Brandon Victor Dixon, Sara Bareilles, Vanessa Williams. It is however another custodian of the American musical flame whose work and presence tonight rather steal the show. To hear Lin-Manuel Miranda sing from Hamilton is to eat at the chef’s table. The Hamilton Symphonic Suite (arranged by Alex Lacamoire, sitting in on keys) brings elements of both mix-tape variety and orchestral expansion. Moving between extracts from ‘My Shot’, King George’s theme, ‘Room where it happens’ leaves an audience helpless to resist the charms of this music that has so quickly bonded itself to the storytelling of America. LMM looks on from his perch as the cast sing ‘you will never be satisfied’. Au contraire. Satisfaction doesn’t do this feeling justice.
Just as music from Bernstein’s Candide opened this almost-too-much-to-eat banquet, so too it closes proceedings with ‘Make our garden grow’. Renée and Brian touch hands gently, kids wearing greenery on their lapels flood down the aisles. ‘We’ll build our house,’ they sing in a cappella unison. There’s a pop and red confetti falls from above. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics famously declare ‘I’m willing to wait for it’. Well, however long you’ve been waiting for the hall, it’s here now and here to be enjoyed. The singing kids will inherit it and that’s an excellent focus for those who get to grow it with and for them.
Explore the NY Phil’s full 2022-23 season here.
*PS — let the record show that Stephen Colbert was the first person to twerk in New David Geffen Hall.