Carnegie Hall

881 7th Ave New York

LGBT Theater District/Carnegie Hall
NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
Written By NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

The first initiative to document historic and cultural sites associated with the LGBT community in New York City, illustrating the richness of the city's history and the community's influence on America.

Overview

One of the premiere centers of American musical life and history, Carnegie Hall has continually featured the work and performances of countless LGBT artists since its opening in 1891. For decades, the Studio Towers residences located above the Hall housed many artists until the space underwent a conversion in 2010.

History

Completed in 1891, Andrew Carnegie’s Music Hall was opened as the new home for the Oratorio Society of New York, with a five-day musical festival during which Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, one of the world’s foremost composers of the day, conducted several of his own works.

Often considered one of the premiere centers of American musical life and history, Carnegie Hall has continually featured the work and performances of countless LGBT artists. Few had as close an association with the Hall as Leonard Bernstein, who appeared more than 430 times between 1943 and 1990, as conductor, pianist, composer, and educator. Dimitri Mitropoulos was the conductor of the New York Philharmonic between 1950 and 1957, until he became the victim of McCarthy-era homophobia. Other conductors here included Jeffrey Tate and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Premieres of classical works by LGBT composers Samuel Barber, Benjamin Britten, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, David Diamond, Marc Blitzstein, Gian Carlo Menotti, Ned Rorem, and John Corigliano were conducted here. African-American composer and pianist, Don Shirley, also performed here. Innumerable LGBT performers have ranged from pianists Vladimir Horowitz and Van Cliburn, to dancer Isadora Duncan, leading Wagnerian heldentenor Lauritz Melchior, popular singers Chris Williamson, Meg Christian, and Rufus Wainwright, and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.

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Located above Carnegie Hall, the former Studio Towers was home to several notable artists, including composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein, actor Marlon Brando, singer Isadora Duncan, composer and pianist Don Shirley, choreographer Jerome Robbins, fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez, and photographer Bill Cunningham. The last residents, including Cunningham, were evicted in 2010 to make way for a plan to renovate the space for rehearsal and classroom use.

Building Information

Architect or Builder: William B. Tuthill (Carnegie Hall); Henry J. Hardenburgh (Studio Towers) Year Built: 1889-91 (Carnegie Hall); 1894-97 (Studio Towers)

Sources

“Performance History Search,” Carnegie Hall, bit.ly/2fu1QIM. Daniel Hurewitz, Stepping Out: Nine Walks Through New York City’s Gay and Lesbian Past (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1997).

Cover Photo

Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2016.

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