[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: First Concert at Carnival Center (UPDATE)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

First Concert at Carnival Center (UPDATE)

Last night my wife and I went to the Carnival Center's Ziff Ballet Opera House for the American Ballet Theatre's performance of Tchaikovski's Swan Lake. Being our first visit to the new center, I was as anxious about seeing the place as the performance itself.

The Ballet Opera House is stunning. Very classy, from the polite and enthusiastic personnel who greeted us and showed us to our seats, to the hall itself, a grandiose European-looking opera house. I'm not going to give a detailed review of Swan Lake since I'm far from an expert on ballet, but I can say that the hall acoustics are tremendous. Even sitting in the 4th level balcony (the highest level), the orchestra's sound came through very clearly and resonant. It was worth the price of admission (more on this below) just for the music.

The place was practically full, even the balcony section.

The row aisles in the 4th level are a little narrow, and there's isn't a ton of leg room especially for those who are taller than 6 feet (I'm right at 6 feet). The lower sections are probably wider, but all in all it was no problem.

Recent letters to the editor to the Miami Herald have been critical of the Carnival Center, from the parking to the panhandlers outside to the ticket prices. I parked at Bayside for dinner and took the Metromover to the Omni station, and it was quicker than I thought it would be. There were several other riders who were going to the concert, so it was far from a desolate ride on the train. Therefore, I won't harshly criticize accessibility to the center based on my experience last night. The only panhandler I saw was at the train stations at Omni and Bayside.

This letter to the editor published today, other than being well-timed for this post, mentions some interesting observations which surprised me:

The American Ballet Theatre will perform Swan Lake this week at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. Ticket prices are the highest I have ever seen in Miami for such a presentation.

The performance is at the Ziff Ballet Opera House. This hall has four balconies. The fourth tier is extremely high -- so high that the Florida Grand Opera reduced its least expensive tickets to only $8. The lowest price in Dade County Auditorium had been $19 dollars. But FGO realized that patrons would be unhappy sitting so far away and acted accordingly.

The Concert Association of Florida, on the other hand, is asking $45 for those same seats. That price is outrageous. I suspect that many of the people going to the ballet have no idea that they will see very little for their money. The association might as well put an ad in the paper suggesting that people bring binoculars.

Mr. Berman is talking about the same section we sat in last night. To be fair, we sat in the second row, so we weren't extremely high compared to the back of the section. Still, I looked back to see how many rows were in back of us, and I noticed that the rows are at a pretty steep angle. In other words, they go quite a bit higher than they go back. As a result, even the back balcony seats aren't too far from the stage in a horizontal sense. You are high, no doubt about that. Nevertheless, I was surprised at how close the stage was, despite our seat location.

Mr. Berman compares ticket prices to the Dade County Auditorium. I will admit, the prices for Swan Lake were high. However, he didn't mention that the prices for the balcony seats almost triple for weekend Florida Grand Opera performances (the $8 seats are weeknights only). An average rock concert by a big name act will run at least $50 in many cases, so comparatively speaking it's not that outrageously high.

Comparing ticket prices at the Carnival Center to those at the DCA is like comparing apples and oranges. I have attended quite a few performances at the DCA, from opera to symphony orchestras, and it is a serviceable but extremely average venue with a moldy aroma and an overall "old" look and feel to it. Sitting in the balcony at the DCA, as I have on several occasions, the music sounds somewhat muffled and far away. The DCA seats slope farther back than at the Carnival Center, so you really are farther away.

In other words, the exact opposite of the Carnival Center's Ballet Opera House. You are paying for the venue and all the advantages that it brings. I categorically disagree with Mr. Berman's statement that people will get little for their money.

And no, we didn't need binoculars from the second row of the top balcony.

All in all, South Floridians should be proud of the Carnival Center. It is a top-notch facility and one that should be supported.

UPDATE 1230 PM: Here's a long and detailed post from Alesh on the Carnival Center, along with plenty of pictures. Check out his picture of the top row of the Ballet Opera House about 2/3rds of the way down the page to get an idea of the worst seat in the house.



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