Lincoln Center celebrates 50th

Plenty of 'Fanfare' for an uncommon venue

The New York Philharmonic played Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" for Lincoln Center's 50th anniversary on Monday, recreating the piece that Leonard Bernstein conducted at the arts complex's 1959 groundbreaking.

The anniversary celebration began in the gleaming new 1,100-seat Alice Tully Hall, which reopened in February after a $159 million, 22-month renovation that has been praised for its superb acoustics and design. Trumpet players from the Juilliard School of Music performed in front of the hall as hundreds as guests streamed inside.

The brass section of the Philharmonic, the nation's oldest orchestra, performed Copland's work under the baton of its new music director, Alan Gilbert. The program also included Gilbert conducting the Juilliard Orchestra playing the overture from Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro."

Violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman performed the final movement from Mendelssohn's "Octet in E-flat, Op. 20" with alumni from the music program he founded.

Other performances included soprano Audra McDonald singing a medley of Gershwin's "Of Thee I Sing" with "America the Beautiful." She also sang "Somedays," a poem by James Baldwin set to music by Steven Marzullo.

Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra concluded the festivities with a performance of his composition, "The Magic Hour."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., were among the 800 people who attended.

Fifty years ago, President Eisenhower stood at Columbus Avenue and 64th Street and pushed a shovel into the earth to break ground for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

The sprawling arts complex was a catalyst for urban renewal and played a significant role in reviving its Upper West Side neighborhood. It is the country's largest performing arts center, home to 12 resident groups including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New York City Opera, the Philharmonic, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Hosted by Tom Brokaw, the program highlighted Lincoln Center's half-century milestones.

Lincoln Center is in the midst of an ambitious redevelopment of its 16-acre campus, expanding buildings, modernizing its concert halls and enlarging its public spaces. Alice Tully Hall is the first building to be completed as part of the center's $1.2 billion redevelopment.

The overhaul includes a new pedestrian bridge over West 65th Street connecting the main campus with the building that houses Alice Tully Hall and the Juilliard School.

The main staircase and promenade at Columbus Avenue will be named after the late soprano Beverly Sills, who was chair of Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera.

The fountain in Josie Robertson Plaza, between Avery Fisher Hall and the David H. Koch Theater, will be updated with new lighting and a sleek design.

A new visitors space and information desk near the main staircase will open in the fall, and a new restaurant with a sloping roof is planned near the reflecting pool at the rear of the plaza.

Avery Fisher Hall, home to the Philharmonic, has been approved to receive an interior update, but a start date hasn't been set.

To help raise money for the remaining projects, Lincoln Center has entered into a five-year agreement to host Fashion Week in its plazas and theaters beginning in September. The twice-annual event has been held under tents in Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library since 1993.

Officials say the redevelopment is geared to make Lincoln Center a more open, accessible and vibrant urban destination.