When the Dallas Opera announced that it was cutting a production from its 2011-2012 season, it was pretty clear about where it laid at least some of the blame:
While this move benefitted the company in important ways and contributed significantly to both the critical and popular success of our subsequent productions in the new, purpose-built venue, the change also had a dramatic impact on the number of patrons who could be accommodated at any given performance, falling from more than 3,400 to a seating capacity of 2,200.
In other words, “Thanks for our new, pretty opera, but it’s killing us.”
Those concerns have been picked up upon in an article in Fastco Design which looks at the architect Norman Foster’s string of “unlucky” projects in America. The opera’s problems, the article reminds us, are not the architect’s fault. The size of the theater was determined by a steering committee which oversaw the development. The decision to perform in repertory was made possible by the new house, but ultimately it was one made by the Dallas Opera. And it is hard to sympathize with complaints over the cost of operating the new building considering the opera has been dreaming of moving out of Fair Park and into a “world class” facility for decades. “World class” venues carry “world class” costs.
But the Winspear is only one of Foster’s troublesome projects in the United States. Some projects, such as a proposed Globe theater redo for New York’s Governors Island, never got off the ground. A Seattle project has fallen victim to the financial crisis. And his Hearst Tower project in New York has made it into the running for one of the ugliest buildings in that city.