San Diego Symphony reveals plans for renovated Symphony Hall
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.
"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.
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.
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.
“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.