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Museums & the Arts

Curtain Rises for Miami Cultural Transformation

Curtain's Up in Miami:

Interior photo of the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts with seats and stage.

Carnival's Center for the Performing Arts features world-class seating, acoustics and lighting.*

New Performing Arts Center Debuts

By Molly Arost Staub

The curtain rose last October on Miami’s new $450 million Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. Cultural fans say the South Florida city finally has reached the zenith of cultural attractions for a major city.

Photo of exterior of Carnival Center for the Performing Arts goes here.  

The Carnival Center features a modern exterior with cascading levels.*

Although excellent performance groups occupied different facilities in the past, Miami previously lacked a concentrated area for the performing arts. For example, the city had no venue on the scale of New York City’s Lincoln Center or Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center.

Located on two square blocks in the northern part of Miami's downtown area, the beige granite, glass and metal complex designed by Cesar Pelli is now wowing audiences and performers alike. It encircles Biscayne Boulevard for easy visitor access.

Theatrical Flair

The center features two elegant theaters, the Dolores and Sanford Ziff Ballet Opera House and the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. In addition, it has a more intimate, 200-seat theater

 Photo looking down at terrazo floor at the Carnival Center. 

Atop the Carnival Center, this is the view down to the terrazo floor below.*

But not all the action is indoors. The outdoor Parker and Vann Thomson Plaza is a lovely spot for free concerts. It's accented with swaying palms and gurgling water.

On very special occasions, Biscayne Boulevard also may be blocked off. In total, the area becomes one gigantic festive area. For design flow, the boulevard boasts the same attractive pavers as the plaza. "It’s like an urban rug, making it like a new European city," says Roberto Estejo, senior associate of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, who worked on the design project.

Locals were delighted that the project retained Miami's 1929-Sears tower – now dubbed the Art Deco Tower. Plans are under way for an 80-seat café within the tower; it will serve pre-theater snacks.

A private restaurant, the Carlin Banquet Room, is available by reservation. All food service is catered by Restaurant Associates, which also serves Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center.

An Artistic Draw

The larger orchestra space and technical innovations of the new performing venue have lured great artists. "The acoustics in the Knight Concert Hall have already been praised as among the best in the world and have captivated some major international artists," says Michael Hardy, Carnival Center president and CEO.

 Photo of artistically carved railing within the Carnival Center goes here.

Even interior railings are artically carved to create art wherever the theater goer looks.*

"The world-renowned Cleveland Symphony Orchestra will be making beautiful music here on an annual basis," notes Hardy. In addition, the stage of the Ballet Opera House is the country’s second largest. Its advanced technology enables the Merce Cunningham Dance Company to make its Miami debut. And the American Ballet Theatre is returning to Miami after not performing in the city for many years.

The center boasts four resident companies: the Concert Association of Florida, Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet (led by Edward Villella, its renowned artistic director) and the New World Symphony (Michael Tilson Thomas conducting). The New World will feature upcoming performances by Yo-Yo Ma and Renee Fleming.

The Miami Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops take center stage for orchestral concerts. The Miami City Ballet performs four programs and "the Nutcracker" delights youngsters in December. Operas include "La Sonnambula" (The Sleepwalker) and "Samson et Dalila."

Other artists include Itzhak Perlman, Paco de Lucia, Barbara Cook, Gilberto Gil, Burt Bacharach, Bill Cosby and Lily Tomlin.

"Wicked," "Animal Farm (the Puppet Musical)" and "the Baseball Music Project" are also on stage this year.

For information and prices, contact www.carnivalcenter.org.

Molly Arost Staub, a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, contributes to Porthole, Cruise & Vacation Agent, Copley News Service, CruiseMates.com and FamilyFun.com. She also previously wrote "Birnbaum's Miami and Fort Lauderdale" and "Florida for Free" and was a contributing editor to "Gayot's South Florida Restaurants" and the "Unofficial Guide to South Florida." She specializes in Florida, romantic cruises and family travel.

Photos shown above are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of the Carnival Center of the Performing Arts. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.

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