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September 7, 2010

Lyric Opera House to get new name after Modell donation

One of Baltimore's cultural landmarks is about to get a new name. The Lyric -- also known locally as the Lyric Opera House and, originally, the Music Hall when it opened in 1894 -- will become the Patricia & Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric on Sept. 21. (YPDATE: My story for Wednesday's paper contains mor information, quotes, etc.)

The change acknowledges a $3.5 million gift from Arthur Modell, former owner of the Baltimore Ravens, and his wife.

The donation completes a $12.5 million capital campaign by the Lyric Foundation to fund extensive renovations of the theater, which presents a wide range of entertainment events each year.

The renovations, already underway, are expected to be completed in

the fall of 2011. "With a larger stage and modern stage technology, we will be able to bring to Baltimore bigger, more sophisticated productions in a safer and more economically efficient manner,” said Lyric Foundation board president Edward J. Brody in a press release.

For decades, the Lyric was home to the Baltimore Opera Company, which folded a couple of years ago. A renovated house that could accommodate larger scenic designs was long a dream of that company. Opera still is in the plans for the renamed facility; a production of Verdi's "La Traviata," presented by the Lyric, is slated for fall 2011 to mark the completion of improvements to the interior.


Posted by Tim Smith at 1:22 PM | | Comments (13)


It's only fair since the citizens of Maryland gave him the money to move from Cleveland anyway

Once I went to Severance Hall in Cleveland with a friend who lives there. I can't wait to invite him to Art Modell Opera House!

This is terrible. the Lyric Theatre is as historic in Baltimore as Fort McHenry. To change it's name because a billionaire donates a tax deductible gift is a slap in the face to the citizens of Baltimore. If Art Modell knew the significance of the name he would probably ask not to change it.

I'm not sure why the name is such a big deal. It's not as if its being renamed with a corporate logo like Jiffy Lube Live (one of the worst names for a venue, IMHO). Besides, many theaters and buildings bear the name of their largest benefactor (the Meyerhoff being the most germane here).

And really, if you live in Baltimore City, the Lyric is always going to be the Lyric.

His name should be everywhere in Bmore, he brought us the Ravens

Too bad the Modell's didn't consider helping the Baltimore Opera two years ago when the Company was trying to survive. A $1 million gift or loan might have made the difference.

Juliet said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." I am grateful to the Modells, very, but I would be happier if they had been willing to continue to let this august theater be called The Lyric Opera House as it has always been. Nevertheless, if grand opera returns to Baltimore in all its glory, I would attend even if the place were called The Podunk Playhouse. Thank you.

If I were a billionaire, I would think that having the opera house named after me would make my gift look less altruistic. It makes it a contract as well as a gift -- his name on the opera house in exchange for a donation. The IRS ought to make part of the gift non-deductible, the way, if you accept a free CD when you make a donation to the BSO, the full donation is not deductible.

If I were a billionaire, I would think that having the opera house named after me would make my gift look less altruistic. It makes it a contract as well as a gift -- his name on the opera house in exchange for a donation. The IRS ought to make part of the gift non-deductible, the way, if you accept a free CD when you make a donation to the BSO, the full donation is not deductible.

Not to pick nits, but the State of MD kicked in 10.5 million for the Meyerhoff hall, and Meyerhoff himself 10 million, making the State the largest benefactor. However, I guess State of Maryland Symphony Hall didn't have the same ring to it.

I'm very grateful to Mr. Modell. The renovation of the Lyric is something that I've been hearing about since relocating to Baltimore in 1998. If it was his $3.5 million that made it happen, I'm pleased that it will bear his name. As someone who sang in that beautiful, yet terribly out-dated facility many times, I'm very excited for the future of the Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center. With a little luck, the name might bring some of the folks from the M&T Bank stadium up the street! I love that I read about this in the sports section...

Well said, Brendan.

Though I am very grateful to the Modells for their gift (which I think will benefit Baltimore much more than pouring money into the sinking Baltimore Opera would have), the Lyric will always be the Lyric and the Modell's names will be dropped just as surely as "Oriole's Park at Camden Yards" has become "Camden Yards". It would have been just as nice, I think, to copy the Carneige Hall/Metropolitan Opera solution and name the main auditorium for the the benefactor - i.e. the Stern Auditorium at Carneige Hall, the Sybil B. Harrington Auditorium at the Met - with plaques at each entrance as a reminder to every event goer, as they walk into the auditorium, of the generous donors who made it possible. That would also have left an opening, perhaps, for a donor to provide funds to have a smaller hall incorporated in the Lyric Complex. In a biography I was reading of the great pianist Shura Cherkassky it notes he made his debut in the "Little Recital Hall" at the Lyric. Does anyone know anything about that smaller hall? It would be nice to have a 500 seat or so hall, with good acoustics and a well-tuned and regulated piano for recitals and smaller concerts. When the Baltimore Symphony, years ago, presented a recital by Elisabeth Soderstrom and Vladimir Ashkenazy the acres of empty seats were an embarrasment to the city and, no doubt, discouraging for the performers.
Well, in case, three cheeers for the Modells, and continued thanks to those who have over the years probably made donations of a similar size, though spread over a longer time - Dr. & Mrs. Allen Jensen spring immediately to mind, but I am sure there are many others ...

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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