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New York State Theater No. 22 - Opening Night

“The night was mild, a star glittered somewhere in the distance, the water of the plaza fountain soared and splashed, and a brass quintet played. The only thing that justified turning a back on all these outdoor enticements was the promise of what was within.” [1]


Allegro Brillante

(left & center) Nicholas Magallanes and Maria Tallchief in Allegro Brillante. Photos by Fred Fehl.

(right) Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Maria Tallchief after the performance

The orchestra played ’The Star Spangled Banner,’ the huge, golden curtain rose to reveal a battery of newspaper photographers on the stage taking picture of the audience. The curtain came down again for a brief space, and when it went up again, there was the New York City Ballet, with Maria Tallchief as prima ballerina, going into the first number of the evening, ‘Allegro Brillante.’ [2]


View from the Audience

The New York State Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, an elegant, $19.3 million building that will present dance, operate, musical comedy and foreign troupes, opened officially last night. A capacity audience of 2,729—many of them prominent in business, industry, politics and the arts—attended a two-hour program of music, ballet, and speeches. It was a black-tie, invitation-only affair. […] Last night’s audience saw a scene from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel” and the ballet perform “Allegro Brillante” and “Stars and Stripes” [3]


Stars & Stripes

“What gave the occasion its jubilation, however, was the performance of Balanchine's ballet, "Stars and Stripes," to Sousa's infectious music. It supplied the glamor that crowned the event. With Jacques d’Amboise’s brilliant and humorous dancing and Patricia McBride’s pert and skillful performance to spark this work, the crowd became aware of just how ‘the artists give life’ to the theatre. // However official the occasion, however distinguished the audience—perhaps the ‘finest ever to gather’ in this place—the performance of ‘Stars and Stripes’ epitomized the American spirit inherent in all that took place. It was the truly inspired way to open this particular theatre. As to how exciting the theatre is, only a visit will reveal. It takes its place immediately as an outstanding structure and it enhances Lincoln Center immeasurably. As a legacy of the people of New York State to posterity it is something got which we may be justly proud.” [4]


Reflections on the New Theater

The city has an exquisite new structure in its midst which some day may be looked upon as classic design of this period. […]They oohed and they ached, and they just stood around and gaped at the magnificent interior. They seemed to like it so much, in fact, that many just stayed on and on, even after the champagne (New York State of course) had run out. // ‘It is a place for kinds and queens,’ said a man sipping champagne with three companions, who al nodded in agreement. As the audience buzzed about in obvious rapture, architect Johnson stood on in the center of the hall and beamed between sips of champagne. ‘I can’t believe it,’’ said Johnson, adding: ‘This room is the best work I’ve ever done, It is for the public. The public deserves more grandeur than high society. the public deserves the best.’” [5]

[1]  M. Horne, Saturday Review, May 9, 1964

[2] Leo Mishkin, Morning Telegraph NY, April 25, 1964 

[3] Milton Esterow in New York Times, April 24, 1964

[4] Miles Kastendieck, NY Journal American, April 24, 1964

[5] John Miller in New York World Telegram, April 24, 1964


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