Call ‘em the Dueling Daves. They may not sling guns, but ultraconservative activist and philanthropist David Koch will soon be glaring directly into the defiant face of liberal-cause supporter David Geffen. In a manner of speaking.
Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts announced Wednesday that Geffen, the onetime music entrepreneur turned billionaire entertainment mogul and philanthropist, will donate $100 million toward the half-billion cost of renovating and “reimagining” Avery Fisher Hall. Construction is expected to begin in 2019.
In exchange for the dough, Geffen gets naming rights, following a long legal battle that ended last November. Thats when the family of the engineering legend who underwrote the first renovation of what had been Philharmonic Hall agreed to relinquish the name for a payment of $15 million. Selling naming rights is essential in fund-raising, as Lincoln Center learned when it separated Koch from $100 million to spearhead the renovation of the New York State Theatre, which sits across the Lincoln Center Plaza from Avery Fisher Hall. The home of George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet is now called the David Koch Theatre, on the 16-acre performing arts campus.
Chiefly home to the New York Philharmonic, Avery Fisher Hall has endured verbal abuse from musicians and concertgoers pretty much since opening in 1962 because of its lousy acoustics. Fisher—whose stereo components were probably the first high-end music systems your parents ever listened to—donated $10 million in 1973, but no one was appeased, even after a subsequent rehab years later. Further indignity was heaped upon the venue because of its proximity to the wondrous Carnegie Hall, where many visiting orchestras and ensembles preferred to plant their banners on regular (and lucrative) visits to Manhattan.
Lincoln Center says that in addition to an all-out overhaul, David Geffen Hall (the name change goes into effect with the new season opening in September) will also feature the new Lincoln Center Hall of Fame state-of-the-arts something-or-other celebrating all aspects of the performing arts and film. Perhaps a hologram of Leonard Bernstein leading the NY Phil, hair flying and eyes asparkle, is in the offing.