Two of the new buildings in the Dallas Arts District, the Winspear Opera House and the Wyly Theater, are nearing completion and due to open within the next two years. As a season ticket holder of the Dallas Opera and the Dallas Theater Center (this puts me in a class of about 19,999 other season ticket holders), I was invited to preview, at different times, each of these venues, on the mezzanine of the Trammel Crow Center where their architectural models are kept. Administrators of the opera and the theater group were there each time to answer questions and give information about the future of their performing arts organization.
At the Dallas Opera’s preview the patrons could also make their ticket requests. Compliance with patron requests is based on several factors such as how long has the patron been a season subscriber (I’m good here; I’ve subscribed for the twenty-two years I’ve lived in Dallas. They wouldn’t let me count the years I subscribed to the Houston Grand Opera though.) Another consideration was how much you contributed financially to the opera. (I usually contribute $100 each year which is not very much in the great scheme of opera contributions. I might add that it will decrease next year since the price of tickets has gone up by 40%. Oh, well, I’ll be able to hear it no matter where I sit.) On a serious note though, the building designed by Norman Foster Associates of London looks wonderful. If you did the Arts District tour last October at the regional ARLIS meeting here you saw the building being built. It was behind the cyclone fence next to the Meyerson Symphony Hall. It will be covered in red tiles which were partly visible at that time. The organization has already received complaints about the color red. But at least it will be easily identifiable. Will it receive the nickname, “New Red”, as opposed to “Old Red,” the name of Dallas County’s first courthouse? Only time will tell what commonplace parlance will do. But all opera lovers who suffered through the bad acoustics and the too-big-for-opera size of the Music Hall in Fair Park for the fifty years it has been located there will be grateful for a new building that takes opera’s special needs into account.
The Wyly Theater, designed by Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaus, looked beautiful too. If you are wondering where this one is, the ARLIS attendees did not go far enough up in the District to see this site last year; there was a fence in the street before we got to it. It is designed to be a theater on the second floor with entry underneath on the ground floor. According to theater administration there won’t be a bad seat in the house. And it will be small enough for this to be true.
Ever the devil’s advocate, I had to ask what would happen to the Kalita Humphries Theater on Turtle Creek, currently the home of the Dallas Theater Center. This is the only theater Frank Lloyd Wright ever designed and joins two personal homes as his only work in Dallas. I was assured that it will still be used by other theatrical groups, but no one knows which ones at this time. I also asked about parking and was told that there was an underground garage leading directly into the Wyly Theater. Parking in the Arts District will be problematical if every theater is having an event at the same time. There are plans for a Dallas Area Rapid Transit station in the area in the future.
Also, both of these venues will be used by other performing arts groups as well as the ones for it is ostensibly built. The Dallas Ft.Worth Ballet and the Dallas Black Dance Theater, as well as a touring musical company will use the Winspear Opera House, and other local theatrical groups will use the Wyly. There are also plans for another theater to be built in the District for the theaters and performances which draw a very small audience.