OVERTURE: Composer John Cage was concerned with what he termed ‘the space between the notes’. Two rectangles stand side by side in a pseudo 4/4 time signature, but who will fill the musical boxes’ space between the folks?
The curtain goes up on Norway’s new and largest concert hall complex in just three days. It is sold out. 102 architects competed with their designs. The new building looks modern, is boxy but bold.
It has two separate musical spaces, with one for classical, one for rock, pop, jazz, amongst other genres. Both arenas have a combined maximum capacity for 3,400 patrons.
In addition come the foyer, described on the website as “open and transparent, with a view of the sea, mountains and city+”, and the mezzanine with a grand piano and seating area for 150. There is also an outside communal open air space for meeting socially, playing and art in the park-inspired area, as well as performance possibilities to 10,000 spectators.
Many of the old dome-shaped concert hall’s 1,100 seats quite often remained unsold, partly due to the acoustics. Twice the number of public and double the number of arrangements is the aim for the new building.
Now, long after the initial disagreements over whether the external building materials could withstand frost have fallen tacit, the building is ready. The 2012-13 programme still has (quite a noticeable number of) empty spaces, let alone seats.
Stavanger municipality’s head of culture says to Aftenbladet that, “the potential [for there being enough people to fill them] is there if the perspective is slightly longer than half a year.”
“The city is no stranger to having vision and thinking big. Nonetheless, no hall fills itself. The challenge is huge,” continues Rolf Norås, talking of breadth and high points. “They [personnel] want full houses on some occasions, as well as arrangements with 100 participants. Nobody should believe this will be simple.”
Mr Norås tells the paper he does not doubt increasing audience interest and curiosity and talks of the first year as being “a great opportunity to hit the super user and new audience [markets]."
“[But] The big challenge is to continue this, retaining the interest and audience.”
Stavanger’s new concert hall has tremendous possibilities. Let us hope it will not become a case of what English dramatist Philip Massinger (1583-1640) said is “all words, and no performance.”