Officials at Lincoln Center in New York bade farewell to Avery Fisher Hall on Thursday, formally renaming the storied classical music venue David Geffen Hall in recognition of the entertainment mogul’s $100-million gift toward its planned renovation.
Geffen was on hand at Thursday’s ceremony -- guests included Oprah Winfrey, George Lucas, Steve Martin and pianist Emanuel Ax -- to usher in his namesake building.
“I was born and raised in New York, so it is especially gratifying to be associated with Lincoln Center and the transformation of one of the world’s great concert halls,” said Geffen, 72, at the ceremony, according to Lincoln Center.
“I would have loved it if my mother could have been here to see this.”
Geffen unveiled the hall’s new identity by joining Lincoln Center leaders to reveal the David Geffen Hall signage on the building’s southern exterior. He was joined by Katherine Farley, chair of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Jed Bernstein, president of Lincoln Center and others.
“We are so grateful to David for his support, and proud to be working closely with Lincoln Center to make the new home of the New York Philharmonic a success,” said Oscar Schafer, chair of the orchestra.
It is one of a number of significant changes to the New York Philharmonic. Alan Gilbert, the orchestra’s music director, will step down from the podium at the end of the 2016-17 season.
Thursday’s unveiling was followed by the Philharmonic’s season-opening concert, featuring pianist Lang Lang and a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. The evening featured the debut of the orchestra’s new concertmaster, Frank Huang, 37, who comes from the Houston Symphony.
Huang succeeds Glenn Dicterow, who served as concertmaster for more than three decades. Dicterow has returned to his native Los Angeles and is a professor of violin at USC’s Thornton School of Music.
The well-heeled crowd on Thursday also included such notable faces as Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Diane von Furstenberg, Barry Diller and Disney chief Bob Iger and his wife, Willow Bay. The concert was broadcast on “Live from Lincoln Center” on PBS.
In March, Lincoln Center announced Geffen’s $100-million gift, which is expected to be paid out over the course of eight years. The naming rights for hall, which first opened in 1962, recently came up for bid in an effort to raise money for the renovation.
Geffen’s gift isn’t going to cover expenses for the entire project, which is slated to begin in 2019 at the earliest, and is expected to cost approximately $500 million.
The Brooklyn-born Geffen made his fortune in the music industry -- and later in the movie business -- and has been a longtime resident of Malibu, though some close to him say he has been spending more time in New York in recent months.
His gift to Lincoln Center isn’t Geffen’s largest philanthropic donation. In 2002, he made a $200-million, unrestricted donation to UCLA’s medical school, which was renamed after him. He later gave an additional $100 million to UCLA to create a scholarship fund for medical students. He is the university’s largest individual donor.
As an arts patron, he recently donated $25 million to the new museum of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in L.A. The museum’s theater will be called the David Geffen Theater.
He also gave millions to what was then the Westwood Playhouse in L.A., and is now the Geffen Playhouse.
Lincoln Center leaders said in March that its agreement with Geffen provides for his name to be on the hall “in perpetuity.”