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Critic Scott Cantrell on the Boom in Arts Centers

by Jerome Weeks 14 Sep 2011 10:28 AM

DMN classical music critic Scott Cantrell returns to his old home, the Kansas City Star, to write an extensive guest feature on the many new performing arts centers that cities have built — and the problems they’ve raised.


Before he came to the Dallas Morning News in 1999, Scott Cantrell — the paper’s classical music-and-architecture-and-visual-arts-on-occasion-and-who-knows-what-else-these-days critic — wrote classical music reviews for the Kansas City Star.  He’s just re-appeared in that paper’s pages with a lengthy guest feature, assessing the trend among cities, preening over their importance and cultural achievements by building major performing arts centers.

You’re right, I have no idea where got that idea.

Civic bragging rights and edifice complexes don’t entirely explain the building boom. Audience expectations are increasingly conditioned by high-definition video and audio available at home with just a few taps on a remote control…

But big-name architects and consultants and good intentions don’t guarantee trouble-free buildings. For all the sophistication of present-day computer modeling, acoustics remains a gamble as much as a science, with losers as well as winners.

Some new facilities, notably Dallas’ new opera house and elaborately reconfigurable theater, supply sophisticated stagecraft but awkward entrances, bad bottlenecks inside and even a serious shortage of restrooms.

He goes on to discuss the increased production costs, acoustical problems and other pitfalls that have been encountered, not just in Dallas but Philly, Kansas and New York.

  • scott

    Why does Cantrell keep riding that old horse of The Dallas Opera not doing anything newer than Boris Godunov? It’s old news and irrelevant to his points.

  • Scott Cantrell

    To “Scott”: It’s old news here, but not in Kansas City. And NOT irrelevant to the point that not even the most conservative repertory could fill the Winspear.