Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local

San Diego Symphony reveals plans for renovated Symphony Hall

Less than a year after completing its stunning outdoor venue, the Rady Shell, the San Diego Symphony is now turning its attention to its indoor home, Copley Symphony Hall at the Jacobs Music Center. KPBS reporter John Carroll shows us the work that’ll bring the space into the 21st century.

Copley Symphony Hall has been the home of the San Diego Symphony since 1984, a building that began its life more than 90-years ago as an ornate Fox Movie Theater.

Symphony Towers was built around and over it, but that was 38 years ago. So Symphony management decided it was time for a major update.

At a Wednesday news conference, lead architect John Frane of HGA Architects called it a challenging opportunity.

220221_Orchestra View (Credit San Diego Symphony and HGA).jpg
San Diego Symphony / HGA Architects
The stage of Copley Symphony Hall at the Jacobs Music Center is shown in this undated computer rendering.

"How do we take what was a 1932 entertainment/movie palace and turn it into a 2022-2023 symphony hall?” he said.

A major challenge to be sure, one that Symphony CEO Martha Gilmer said is being met.

“What you’re seeing is just this tender, loving, adoring care of this incredible venue, while still bringing her into the 21st century," she said.

220220_Parterre View (Credit San Diego Symphony and HGA).jpg
San Diego Symphony/HGA Architects
A view of the stage at Copley Symphony Hall is shown in this undated computer rendering.

The architecture inside is Spanish Baroque and there is breathtaking detail everywhere you look.

“It hasn’t been touched or damaged or tinkered with in all these years and so we’re really preserving that,” Gilmer said.

There will be new box seats in alcoves on both sides of the Hall. The Juliet balconies will be used for seating for the first time.

220220_Choral Terrace View (Credit San Diego Symphony and HGA).jpg
San Diego Symphony/HGA Architects
A view from the back of the stage on the choral terrace is shown in this undated computer rendering.

The stage is being reconfigured. A new orchestra enclosure will greatly improve acoustics for musicians and the audience. A new choral terrace will allow large choirs to accompany the orchestra or be used for audience seating. A decorative metal mesh will add to acoustical excellence. There will be a new seating and new ways to configure it.

But what’s happening out of sight is also impressive; a new state-of-the-art air filtration system has been installed and the architects are making use of previously unused space, making room for things such as storage of instruments.

When taken all together, it is a major gift for music lovers, and a dream come true for the Symphony’s music director Rafael Payare.

220218_Accessible Balcony View (Credit San Diego Symphony and HGA).jpg
San Diego Symphony/HGA
The stage of Copley Symphony Hall is shown looking from the balcony in this undated computer rendering.

“It’s fantastic, I mean I feel very lucky,” he said.

Payare has already extended his contract once. He said his passion is bringing the San Diego Symphony to new heights.

“This is what we’re actually pushing and just going forward and forward and trying to go higher and higher," Payare said.

The renovated venue is scheduled to open in the fall of 2023, and it is an expensive undertaking — $125 million and it is coming mainly from donors.

But combined with the Rady Shell, the new indoor home for the Symphony will move San Diego into a new echelon when it comes to music, a proposition which really is priceless.