ROCHESTER, NY ― Eastman Theatre’s “extreme makeover” ― a $5 million renovation to its stage ― is nearing completion on time and on budget, and the excitement is mounting.
The stage renovation, announced publicly in February 2003, is the first of two phases of historically sensitive renovations that the Eastman School of Music has planned for its 3,094-seat Theatre. The most visible and dramatic improvement is a stunning new custom shell designed to enhance acoustics and complement the aesthetic treatment of the Theatre’s house. Less visible ― but equally important ― changes to the stage include dramatically improved stage lighting; an improved orchestra pit, with all-new mechanics and hydraulics; state-of-the-art rigging; and several backstage enhancements. The stage’s physical transformation has taken place in three short months under the general management of Christa Construction, with nearly all work performed by Rochester-area vendors.
As construction crews and other technicians fine-tune the stage for its unveiling and immediate use, musicians from the Eastman School and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra eagerly await their chance to perform for the first time on the new stage in the historic Theatre. Audiences, likewise, are eager to see ― and hear ― the changes. Fortunately, there are several exciting opportunities, as described below, during the first weeks of October for all to experience the renovations firsthand. To heighten the excitement of the unveiling, access to the Theatre will remain strictly limited as it has been since July 1.
Official unveiling of Eastman Theatre stage
Wednesday, October 6 • 2 p.m.
The curtain will literally rise to reveal the new Eastman Theatre stage for the very first time in a special unveiling ceremony hosted by Eastman Dean James Undercofler. Eastman faculty, staff, and students, along with the media and other invited guests will get their “first peek” at the stage in a non-concert setting. Following the short ceremony, members of the media will be given the chance to take a closer look at the changes.
RPO season-opening concerts
Thursday, October 7, and Saturday, October 9 • 8 p.m.
The general public’s first chance to see the exciting changes to Eastman Theatre in person coincides with the opening concert of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s new season. The concert, conducted by RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman, will open with a new David Diamond work arranged and edited by Gerard Schwarz, commissioned to celebrate the 150 th anniversary of the birth of George Eastman. It also features 2001 Van Cliburn Silver Medalist Antonio Pompa-Baldi performing Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini. Other works on the program include Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique. Tickets are $20-50, and are available in person at the RPO Box Office (108 East Avenue), by phone at 454-2100, online at www.rpo.org, or at any Wegmans Video Department.
Prior to each night’s performance, Christopher Seaman will welcome special guests James Undercofler and Lou Wiesner (Eastman Director of Facilities and member of the renovation project team) for a portion of his popular “Pre-concert Chats”; together, they’ll talk about the exciting improvements to the Eastman Theatre stage. The chats run from 7:00-7:30 p.m. and are free to concert ticketholders.
Eastman musicians will officially “inaugurate” their new stage during the School’s Alumni Weekend, which takes place October 15-17, and includes the following two concerts, which are free and open to the public:
Eastman Wind Ensemble
Friday, October 15 • 8 p.m.
The acclaimed Eastman Wind Ensemble ― back from its incredibly successful recent Asian tour under director Mark Scatterday ― will present the first Eastman School performance on the new stage. The concert will showcase trombonist and alumnus Jim Pugh premiering a rediscovered trombone concerto by Hollywood film composer Nathaniel Shilkret. It also will feature works by Wilson, Schuman, and Grainger, and a special guest appearance by Wind Ensemble founder Frederick Fennell ― back at his alma mater for Alumni Weekend ― conducting a suite by John Philip Sousa.
Eastman-Rochester Chorus / Eastman Philharmonia
Saturday, October 16 • 8 p.m.
The “grand finale” of the exciting first 10 days in the “new” Eastman Theatre is the world premiere of Four Seascapes for Chorus and Orchestra ― a work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer (and Eastman alumnus) Dominick Argento, commissioned to celebrate the Sibley Music Library’s 100th anniversary. Eastman Choral Conductor William Weinert will lead the Eastman-Rochester Chorus in the performance, while his faculty colleague, Neil Varon, will complete the evening’s program by leading the Eastman Philharmonia in Beethoven’s always captivating Fifth Symphony. In addition, the School will use this remarkable concert to officially recognize the 150th anniversary of the birth of the man who made it all possible ― George Eastman ― thereby providing a perfect ending to an historic week in Eastman Theatre.
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Note: More details about the new work by Dominick Argento can be found online here.