Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thank you, Mr. Winspear

Bill Winspear and his wife Margot together donated $42 million to the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, now the new AT&T Performing Arts Center, to build a world class opera house in Dallas, TX. Because Mr. Winspear was an avid opera lover. An arts patron of the highest order.

The east lobby on the main level.

Looking up from the main lobby.

And, because of Mr. Winspear's gift and the gifts of many, many others, and the hard work of lots of people with specialized knowledge about how to build such a thing, the Winspear Opera House opened in the Dallas Arts District last week. And it is a gem. A wonderful place in so many ways.

S and I went to the opening night gala at the opera house. The grainy, low light photos in this post were taken that night with the purse camera.

Bathrooms aren't all that. They work.
I guess that's a good thing. Yes, that's me.

Cool signs that light up.

That's S, checking out the space.

Rather spacious pit.

View from the pit railing.

What the balcony sides are made of.

Opening number with Dallas Opera Chorus

We heard wonderful operatic voices perform in a space that is acoustically designed for that sort of thing. We saw world class dancers. We felt engaged in what was happening on stage, because the space, even though it seats 2200 people, feels intimate. We saw a venue that is high tech and 21st century in so many ways. It was thrilling to sit there and experience the space.

Our seats were in the center orchestra terrace. It gave us a great view of the festivities. The thing is, the space, even at the back, as I said before, feels very intimate. As if you are right there, near the action. If you're familiar with the Meyerson, where we were sitting in the orchestra terrace in the second row, it felt as if we were in something like row O or P at the Meyerson. It's that close-in. It's really that tight. That said, it doesn't feel cramped or too close or anything like that. The seats are spacious and comfortable, actually.

It is amazing to think that building sits right next to the acoustically wonderful Meyerson Symphony Center. And it is just dog-gone exciting that those two halls sit right next to one another in my fair city, Dallas, TX.

There are tons of reviews of the space - I have read a few, and you can too if you google it. Or check the AT&T PAC website. Or the local papers. Or the New York Times. I cannot live up to those standards. I can only tell you what we saw and felt while we were there. The Winspear was designed by Foster & Partners and the Wyly was designed under the auspices of Rem Koolhaas' firm OMA. So, these buildings very aptly join the ranks of architecturally significant dwellings for the arts in Dallas - between an I.M. Pei and a Brad Cloepfil. And near a Renzo Piano and an art museum designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes.

And I am sad Mr. Winspear is not here to see it himself. What a thrill that would have been for him. He, after giving the money to the Center, was diagnosed with cancer and died before it was to be opened. But, we are now the recipients of his generosity. All of the citizens of Dallas are the recipients of his vision and generosity.

The center of the audience chamber has a chandelier of light tubes that hangs down into the space, but draws itself into a "starry night" on the ceiling, or disappears altogether for the performance. I took a little video of this action the other night...but I forgot that videos shot in portrait mode turn out sideways. So, you'll have to imagine it right side up, going into the ceiling above, or turn your head to watch. Sorry about that. The video is only about 3o seconds of the transformation - it generally takes around 1.5 minutes, I'm estimating.

On Sunday, we returned to the Arts District for the open house for the city on that date. There were something like 45,000 people there. The weather was amazing and everyone came out for a look see. On that day, I took more photos and ventured up to the "cheap seats", which were just as perfect as sitting down below. There is not a bad seat in the whole place as far as I can tell.

It was so exciting to see the arts district so alive!

Look - there's S - in the navy shirt with the camera backpack.
He didn't go in with us.

One of two dining spaces.

The Winspear, along with the Wyly Theater I talked about last week and some outdoor spaces, make up the new Center, the newest additions to the Dallas Arts District. I'm thrilled they are now open and so thrilled for our city. I can't wait to hear and see memorable performances in these spaces alongside my fellow Dallasites. It will be a wonderful thing.

So, thank you Mr. Winspear and the throngs of other deep pockets that gave this gift to this city. Thank you for having the vision to make it a reality. We are very lucky you did!

I have a few more photos I can share on another day, but that's enough for now, no? Yes. It is. See you tomorrow.


  1. And thank you for the tour, Amy. Your photo account is the best I've seen so far. And yes, so sad Bill Winspear did not live to see the opening. But what a great legacy he left for all of us to enjoy.

  2. So very cool. Thanks for sharing the pictures and your experience of the place. It's so surreal to actually see it all there now after hearing of the dream for so long. And you almost sounded like someone familiar for a moment there. :)

    I'll throw in a thanks to the Winspears and the rest of the donors. Oh the things I could do with $42 million. It wonderful of them all to be so generous.



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