Jay-Z’s name is nearly inseparable from the Barclays Center at the moment, but the hip-hop mogul’s February performance at this vaunted Italian Renaissance-style mecca to classical music prodigies and connoisseurs packed an even bigger socio-cultural punch than the decade-long Atlantic Yards brouhaha. The 121-year-old venue continues to mix old and new without losing any of its dignity, making for quite a few headlineworthy performances.
Metropolitan Opera House
The centerpiece of the Lincoln Center cultural campus, architect Wallace K. Harrison’s building ushered the Met, which had called Broadway and 39th Street home since 1883, into modernity 46 years ago. Some critics gripe about the company’s creative viability these days, but the 3,800-seat Metropolitan Opera House remains an artistic lodestar, and a society magnet come opening night each fall.
Protestors were still picketing Bruce Ratner’s divisive $1 billion baby as Jay-Z played the first of eight sold out concerts at the 18,000-seat arena on September 28. Whether the Barclays Center and the rest of the mammoth Atlantic Yards development ruins or revitalizes Downtown Brooklyn remains to be seen. But for now the borough has its first pro sports team— the transplanted Nets—in a half-century, a blockbuster concert lineup and a venue to rival Madison Square Garden as the city’s preeminent music stage.
Radio City Music Hall
This Art Deco stunner opened to New Yorkers as a variety theater and single-screen movie palace in the midst of the Great Depression; 80 years later, it’s still a gilded jewel box hosting the city’s most extravagant showcases timetested (the Christmas Spectacular and those leggy Rockettes) and of-the-moment (Cirque du Soleil: Zarkana). The 6,000-square-foot theater welcomes the more rugged present with frequent concerts by indie rock bands and, recently, the hall’s first electronic dance music superstar: Avicii.
David H. Koch Theater
Named for the prominent businessman after he pledged $100 million toward the theater’s renovation and long-term financial health, this Lincoln Center fixture sadly lost a major tenant when the cash-strapped New York City Opera entered a nomadic phase in 2011. The New York City Ballet still calls it home, prolonging the Koch’s status as a hub of worldclass performance.
The House That Ruth Built moved across the street in 2009, and shockingly few Yankees loyalists raised a stink about the transfer. Sightlines improved, and passageways no longer resembled rush hour subway platforms. Ticket prices spiked, as did the pampering available in the expanded luxury suite section a cocktail’s throw away from the field. The Bronx Bombers won their 27th World Series title that year, but demanding owners and fans expect many more to follow, and fast.
Built in 1929 and dramatically spiffed up in 2008, the Beacon didn’t let its makeover alter its mission: welcoming only-in-New York events like the Tony Awards (in 2011 and 2012) and the annual slew of Allman Brothers Band concerts, an Upper West Side rite of spring that returned to the Beacon last year after the southern rockers were temporarily displaced by Cirque du Soleil.