Jazz, opera, ballet, Broadway, children's performances, original productions, cutting-edge theater, flamenco, symphonies, chamber music, stand-up comedy, physical theater.
It's difficult to think of a type of performance that the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County doesn't offer... and that was the plan all along.
The mammoth center, which debuted in October 2007 after a quarter century of planning, has delivered what it promised: a foundation for some of South Florida's biggest arts groups - Florida Concert Association, Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet and New World Symphony - to stage their most ambitious works; and a magnet for music, dance, theater and performing arts companies from around the world.
Those uncertain whether the Arsht Center is a place for them can check it out for free at activities like the monthly Family Fest, free family-friendly activities and concerts in the outdoor plaza.
Twice a week the center opens its doors for free, behind-the-scenes tours, too, with guided visits to backstage areas such as dressing rooms and costume shops.
It's part of the center's public outreach effort to remind residents that this publicly owned and funded center is for everyone.
So go ahead: Act like you own the place - because, after all, you do.
Straddling the 1300 block of Biscayne Boulevard, just north of Downtown Miami, the Arsht Center is made up of three stages: the 2,200-seat John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall, which is on the east side of Biscayne Boulevard; the 2,400-seat Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House, which is on the west side of Biscayne Boulevard; and the 200-seat Carnival Studio Theater, which is inside the ballet opera house.
The Knight Concert Hall, with its adjustable acoustic features, is made up of two buildings: the inner chamber, where the audience sits and the orchestras perform; and the surrounding outer chamber, which keeps out ambient sound and allows for modified reverberation.
A large, adjustable canopy over the Knight Concert Hall stage also affects the sound quality, which music critics have alternately described as superior or muddled. Much of the concert hall's acoustic quality, though, rests as much with the performers as it does with the engineers who adjust the settings.
Generally speaking, acoustic and non-amplified performances work best in the concert hall. For orchestral, solo and acoustic performances, Knight Concert Hall offers intimacy and grandeur as well as excellent sightlines from nearly every seat. Main floor is optimum for the best sound, though the sonic quality is also good in the first two tiers of boxes, with those near the stage offering spectacular visuals.
The Ziff Ballet Opera House is an ornate, European-style hall with a proscenium stage, rows of balconies, and a brilliant sound dome overhead.
For Broadway and other theatrical performances, the Ballet Opera House offers good sound and sightlines from the front center orchestra level. Once you move over to the sides, you have sightline issues; the sound mix can get weird if you're sitting farther back. And if you sit in the mezzanine/balconies/boxes, there are serious perspective issues - you can be looking down on the actors' heads. Or you might be unable to see one side of the stage.
For dance, Herald arts critics, who review shows at the Arsht Center, recommend center seats at the Ballet Opera House, on either the orchestra level, orchestra circle or center box for viewing that allows you to get close enough to the action on stage, but far enough to appreciate the scope of sets, scenery and choreography. Balcony seats on the first and second tier, boxes 1 through 4, also offer close-up views, but a narrower focus.
For opera, the Ziff affords solid sound and decent sightlines. Voices can be heard clearly even in seats far from the stage, though the highest level is not recommended for the acrophobic.
Prices for Arsht Center shows will vary, depending on the performance, the seats, the presenter, the night of the program and a host of variables that could put the per-person cost of a ticket anywhere from $10 for a weeknight opera to way north of $500 for a gala concert.
Tickets to programs produced by the center - under the title Arsht Center Presents - start at $15 in either of the two large halls, while tickets to most Arsht Center Presents shows in the Carnival Studio Theater are set at $25.
The cheapest way to keep informed of ticket discounts is to subscribe to the free mailing list through arshtcenter.org. Subscribers select their favorite shows by type and then receive sales announcements via e-mail.
Ticket discounts and giveaway programs also are available.
Half-Off Tickets, or HOT, gives students, military members and seniors age 65 and older a 50-percent discount when they buy tickets on the day of a performance.
The center also participates in ticket programs subsidized by Miami-Dade County's Department of Cultural Affairs, such as Culture Shock and Golden Ticket, which give students and seniors free tickets to select Arsht Center performances.
Group rates available for parties of 15 or more.
There's no surer way to lay out the welcome mat than to offer free performances with free parking. The Arsht Center extends this hospitality at least twice a month.
- Get to know the Arsht Center inside and out with a behind-the-scenes tour, offered free every Monday and Saturday at noon. No reservations are needed, just meet the group in the lobby of the Ziff Ballet Opera House.
- Family Fest - a monthly series of free concerts, cultural workshops, kids activities and other events outdoors on the Plaza at The Arsht Center.
- Gospel Sundays brings soloists and choirs, many affiliated with South Florida churches, to Arsht Center stages for free concerts periodically.
Membership has its privileges, as they say, and Arsht Center members receive a few - depending on their level of giving.
A basic annual membership starts at $50 and affords the opportunity to buy tickets before they go on sale to the general public. It also includes special offers and an invitation to the Annual Member Appreciation party.
Sign up at the $1,000 level and enjoy wine and cheese in the Patron's salon pre-performance and during intermission, plus receive invites to cast parties and special events.
There are more than performances to catch at the Arsht Center; there are dance workshops, traditional instrument demonstrations and family sing-a-longs. Visiting artists regularly conduct educational activities for adults, students, children and arts professionals. For a list of upcoming activities or to sign up for updates, visit arshtcenter.org/educate.
The Florida Theatrical Association and Broadway Across America Miami offer free education programming catered to Broadway shows presented throughout the season, including chat backs with cast and crew members, workshops, master classes and technical observations. For more information visit floridatheatrical.org.
SELF PARKING ($15)
You can buy self-parking vouchers for your performance night when purchasing tickets at arshtcenter.org, or you can visit or call the box office.
Parking in lots A, B, C and E can be purchased in advance for $15. Lots D and F are available for drive-up purchase only, and their prices may vary. Lots A, B, C and E open two hours prior to performances and close 2 hours following the end of each performance.
Self-parking is available for pre-purchase up to 24 hours prior to your performance.
Vouchers are good only for the assigned lot and only for a specific date and time: they cannot be used at any other lot or on any other day.
VALET PARKING ($20)
Purchase your valet parking vouchers in advance on carnivalcenter.org or by calling the box office.
Then there's the Lexus crowd. If you arrive at the Arsht Center in a Lexus, you get free valet parking. Just call the box office in advance to reserve a spot.
By Metrorail and Metromover
Take the Metrorail to Government Center and transfer to the Omni Loop Metromover headed toward the Omni station, located one block from the Center. New directional signage has been added on the trains, at the stations and at street level.
Enhanced Bus Service from Miami Beach
Route A starts from Lincoln Road and Washington Avenue every 20 minutes throughout the evening and runs parallel to Lincoln Road by numerous parking lots along 17th Street westbound. Route A crosses the Venetian Causeway and ends at the Omni Bus Terminal, located one block from the Center. Buses return to Miami Beach immediately after each performance, departing every 20 minutes until 11:40 p.m.
The Omni Bus Terminal is served by 15 bus routes, including 3, 16, 32, 36, 62, 95, A, C, K, M, S, T, Biscayne MAX and Flagler MAX.
For more information on these routes, check the Miami-Dade Transit website at miamidade.gov/transit or call 305-770-3131.
-From the North:
Take I-95 south to I-395 east/Miami Beach exit. Take exit #2A (Biscayne Blvd./N.E. 2nd Ave.) Continue straight to the 2nd stoplight on Biscayne Blvd. Go left at the light and you'll see the Carnival Center
-From the South:
Take US 1 to I-95 north to exit #2D (Miami Beach) toward exit 2B (Biscayne Blvd./US-1/N.E. 2nd Ave.). Continue straight to the 2nd stoplight on Biscayne Blvd. Turn left at the light and you will see the Carnival Center
-From the East:
Take MacArthur Causeway West and exit onto Biscayne Boulevard. Go straight to Biscayne Blvd. and you will see the Center on your right
-From the West:
Take SR 836 east to I-395 east/Miami Beach exit. Take exit #2A (Biscayne Blvd./N.E. 2nd Ave.) Continue straight to the 2nd stoplight on Biscayne Blvd. Turn left at the light and you will see the Carnival Center
The Knight Concert Hall is located on the east side of Biscayne Blvd. The Ziff Ballet Opera House and the Carnival Studio Theater are located on the west side of Biscayne Blvd.
Ticket sales, parking vouchers, performances and other customer information at arshtcenter.org or the center's box office, at 305-949-6722
Photo: John VanBeekum