From classical ballet to experimental movement, opera and Shakespeare, you could spend every night of the week on the edge of your seat in New York City.
The epicenter of New York City’s world-class performing arts scene is the Lincoln Center of Performing Arts, a sprawling 16-acre campus on the Upper West Side that is home to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, the New York Philharmonic, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Julliard School, and the School of American Ballet, among others.
Start with a guided tour of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which takes you behind the scenes (and perhaps even on stage) at venues where masters like Luciano Pavarotti, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leonard Bernstein, Renée Fleming, and Bruce Springsteen have performed. Those people as interested in Lincoln Center itself as it various tenants, may enjoy the new Art and Architecture Tour at Lincoln Center, which offers a close look at the grand architecture and incredible artwork that graces the Lincoln Center campus, including pieces by Henry Moore, Jasper Johns, Lee Bontecou, and Richard Lippold.
Each season of the New York City Ballet features classic masterpieces like Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, as well as dynamic new works choreographed by Ballet Master-in-Chief Peter Martins. Staged at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, the New York City Ballet performs winter and spring repertory seasons, as well as the Nutcracker during the holidays.
Also located at Lincoln Center is the world-renowned New York Philharmonic, at Avery Fisher Hall. Music director Alan Gilbert leads this symphony orchestra, the oldest in the U.S., in musical masterworks that include Brahms’s Third Symphony and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, as well as many others. The New York Philharmonic also hosts an annual free concert in Central Park. The Sept. 15, 2011, performance will star Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
One non-traditional venue that falls under the Lincoln Center umbrella of arts organizations is the Park Avenue Armory, which is described on its website as “part-palace, part industrial-shed.” The Armory stages both visual and performing art pieces, from a rare six-week residency by the Royal Shakespeare Company (on a unbelievable full-scale replica of the company’s Stratford stage) to the transformative visual and sonic art experience created by acclaimed Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda.
The majestic 3,900-seat Metropolitan Opera House is the home stage of the Metropolitan Opera, featuring dozens of different operas each season, with each day of the week featuring a classic production or brand new work. That makes it easy to plan for a few performances during your stay; book tickets for different operas on consecutive nights and get your fill of arias.
The New York City Opera, meanwhile, strives to make its performances affordable (more than a quarter of each show’s tickets are under $25) to grow its audience of opera-goers. The City Opera is also known as a showcase for young artists, and has helped launch the careers of more than 3,000 singers. The opera company was previously also located at Lincoln Center, but now stages its performances at a number of venues around the city, including the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn, and El Museo del Barrio in Harlem.
BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) is the oldest performing arts center in the U.S. Located in the heart of Brooklyn, this venue stages or produces as many as 220 stage performances each year. Among numerous other events, BAM hosts the Next Wave Festival of contemporary performance, storytelling, visual art and film, the New York LGBT Film Festival, and a new initiative by London’s National Theatre to broadcast its live performances by satellite.
You may see the line-up when you’re walking through Central Park: people camped out for hours in the hopes of snagging free tickets to the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park performances. Tickets aren’t easy to get (you can also line up at Joe’s Pub in Greenwich Village), but if you can stand the wait, it’s worth it: past performances have featured the likes of Al Pacino and Anne Hathaway.