A few weeks ago, I followed the overflowing Whitney Biennial out of the museum to the Park Avenue Armory, a spectacular edifice of genteel militarism with peeling paneled walls, lofty ceilings, a room by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and an arched Drill Hall reminiscent of a nineteenth century train station. That’s where the lollapalooza of this year’s Lincoln Center Festival will take place: Bernd Alois Zimmerman’s angry and gargantuan opera Die Soldaten, in a production by David Pountney imported from the Ruhr Triennale. The score calls for an orchestra of 110, including fifteen percussionists, a jazz combo, and a stage band–so many musicians that the New York State Theater couldn’t contain them all when New York City Opera gave the New York premiere in 1991. The Armory's Drill Hall was designed for overwhelming force, though, and it will also provide the requisite industrial-age creepiness and modest dilapidation. (The show's big technological selling point is that the audience will sit on platforms that move on tracks alongside the catwalk-like stage.)
The place is slowly being fixed up and impresarios are salivating; Gerard Mortier has plans to bring Messiaen’s Saint Francois d’Assise there. Some neighbors are less enthused, though they claim that their beef is with traffic on performance nights, not with colorful modernist music or oversize opera.