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Opera's Next Wave

Manhattan's LE POISSON ROUGE — with its popular prices and unstuffy atmosphere, it may be the true way of the future for concert presentation.

Next Wave Poisson Rouge lg 812
© Gregory Downer 2012

There aren't many classical-music venues where the bouncer demands to see your state I.D. and, once inside, you have to comply with the two-drink minimum. In fact, there may be only one — Le Poisson Rouge, Manhattan's downtown mecca for hip music-lovers. Whether your tastes run to Chopin, reggae, samba or punk, you'll probably find something worthwhile here. It's also a great center for new music, such as Ted Hearne's Katrina Ballads, composed in the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Katrina. As the epidemic suburbanization of the city shows no sign of slowing down, it's exciting to encounter a place with such a quintessentially tough, independent New York spirit. 

Located at 158 Bleecker Street, Le Poisson Rouge offers seating for up to 250 in a sleek event space decorated primarily in black and deep lipstick red. (If you're a horror-movie fan, the set design may put you in mind of Dario Argento's cult classic Suspiria.) It's all refreshingly informal, without a whiff of concert-hall stuffiness — the perfect classical-music destination for the NYU crowd. Performances are kept to a manageable, nightclub-scale length: a recent concert of Beethoven piano sonatas by H. J. Lim lasted a little under an hour, with a Q&A following. Best of all are the popular prices. As so much of the classical-music world continues to be utterly clueless about how to pull in audiences at affordable rates, Le Poisson Rouge may be the true way of the future for concert presentation in New York. spacer

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Current Issue: September 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 3