A major cultural destination, attracting more than 5 million visitors annually, the Lincoln Center complex is one of the most concentrated places for the performing arts in the nation, as home to 11 resident organizations, including: the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Juilliard School, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center Theater, Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and the School of American Ballet.
This massive white travertine-clad complex contains 23 theaters in all, part of a 16-acre campus that was planned by master architect Philip Johnson, and built as part of an urban-renewal effort that arose over the course of several years from 1962 to 1969; some 40 years later, it was given a thorough remodeling to better integrate it into the neighborhood. Visitors today can enjoy more recent improvements like expanded
public and green spaces, free Wi-Fi, and various dining options.
To get oriented, start across the street, on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd Streets, at the David Rubenstein Atrium. There you'll find free Wi-Fi, tables, a café, and that rarest of NYC commodities: a public restroom. In addition to free concerts on Thursdays (at 7:30 pm), a new schedule of free musical and dance performances, as well as discussions and spoken-word programs, has been added throughout the week. Day-of-show discounted tickets for many Lincoln Center venues may be purchased in person here; there is a limit of four tickets per customer, and the amount of discount depends on the performance. Because the box office is closed on Monday, any available tickets for Monday performances are sold on Sunday.
The acoustics in Alice Tully Hall are top-notch; the hall's home to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (www.chambermusicsociety.org). David Geffen Hall is the residence of the New York Philharmonic (www.nyphil.org); its season is September to June. Orchestra rehearsals are open to the public on selected weekday mornings ($20, plus fees; usually Wednesday or Thursday). A popular Young People's Concert series takes place Saturday afternoon, four times throughout the season. Lincoln Center presents its well-attended Great Performers, Lincoln Center Festival, Mostly Mozart Festival, and White Light Festival in these halls, too.
The largest hall, the Metropolitan Opera House is notable for its dramatic arched entrance, as well as its lobby's immense Swarovski crystal chandeliers and Marc Chagall paintings. The titan of American opera companies and an institution since its founding in 1883, the Metropolitan Opera (www.metopera.org) brings the world's leading singers to the vast stage here from September to May. All performances, including those sung in English, are subtitled on small screens on the back of the seat in front of you. A frequent resident of the Met (and sometimes, of the David H. Koch Theater) is the American Ballet Theatre (www.abt.org), renowned for its gorgeous full-program renditions of the 19th-century classics (Swan Lake, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty) with choreography re-envisioned by 20th-century or contemporary masters. A limited number of same-day $20 rush orchestra seats are available at the Met's website. These tickets go on sale for Sunday through Friday evening performances at noon, for matinees four hours before curtain, and for Saturday evenings at 2 pm.
The David H. Koch Theater, considered of the world's top theaters for dance, is the home of the formidable New York City Ballet (www.nycballet.com), which has a roster of more than 90 dancers, a 62-piece orchestra, and an unmatched repertory of modern masterpieces, including landmark works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Peter Martins. NYCB performs at the theater for 21 weeks each year, including fall, winter, and spring repertory seasons, with Thanksgiving through New Year’s devoted to the beloved annual production of Balanchine's The Nutcracker. The theater also hosts a mix of other internationally famous dance troupes throughout the year, as well as Lincoln Center Festival and White Light Festival performances.
The Lincoln Center Theater complex houses the Vivian Beaumont Theater, the smaller Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, and the rooftop Claire Tow Theater, which has 131 seats and a small outdoor terrace.
The auditorium of the Walter Reade Theater (www.filmlinc.com) shows film series devoted to "the best in world cinema,” including silents, documentaries, retrospectives, and recent releases, often on the same theme or from the same country. The Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center has two small screening rooms, a café, and an amphitheater that hosts lectures and panel discussions.
In addition to extensive musical and theatrical holdings, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts mounts periodic exhibitions related to major artists and composers. At the library’s free year-round Silent Clowns series (www.silentclowns.com), held Saturday afternoons each month in its auditorium, rarely seen prints of the silent era’s comedy masters are paired with live piano music.
Tours of Lincoln Center, including the Met, take place daily and leave from the atrium; reservations are recommended and can be made from the website (atrium.lincolncenter.org) or in person. Tours do not include backstage areas, but sometimes do visit parts of the auditoriums. Backstage tours of the Met ($22) are held during the performance season.