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Progress Continues as Concert, Opera Halls Near Completion

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RALEIGH — For months, symphony and opera fans have heard the ads and bought tickets for the new Meymandi Concert Hall in downtown Raleigh. But contractors are racing to meet the deadline.

When you look at all the mud, scaffolding and scattered materials around Memorial Auditorium, it is hard to believe it will all be gone in 28 days -- on Feb. 20 when the ribbon is cut on the new concert hall.

One day later, the N.C. Symphony is scheduled to perform in its new home.

Right now, workers are putting the finishing touches on the building. Luxury boxes and painting both have to be finished. Seats and carpeting will be the next areas to tackle.

Jim Lavery with the BTI Center for the Performing Arts says the current phase of construction is not so much about what can be seen as what can be heard.

"It's built for sound. It's built for a concert hall," Lavery says. "You don't see any sound speakers or anything like that. It's to project all the sound. It's very high, and it's very long. It's very narrow."

On the other end of the building is the A.J. Fletcher Opera Hall, where the first performance is scheduled for Feb. 22.

"In [the opera hall], the farthest you are away from the stage is 40 to 50 feet," Lavery says. "So you're right on the stage."

When the dust and hard hats are gone, Lavery says arts fans will have 800 events to pick from in this year alone. On several nights this year, three or four events will be going on at the same time at the same building.

In the meantime, workers are rushing to complete the concert hall.

"It'll get done. It has to get done," Lavery says.

In addition to being ready for opening night, there will be time for the Symphony to rehearse in the new facility in the days leading up to the performance.

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Rick Armstrong, Reporter
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