Music, culture abound in Downtown

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra played Romantic period favorites at Heinz Hall last Friday. (credit: File Photo) The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra played Romantic period favorites at Heinz Hall last Friday. (credit: File Photo)

Although it is often referred to as “The Steel City,” Pittsburgh has a lot more to offer than buildings and bridges; it’s filled with numerous entertainment options for students of all backgrounds and interests. With its expansive Cultural District, Pittsburgh is a hub for music, theater, and culture.

The Cultural District was developed and is operated by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a non-profit arts organization founded in 1984 and one of the major supporters of Pittsburgh’s cultural community. Thanks to the Cultural Trust, a once beaten-down district has become a prominent Mecca for arts lovers.

The Benedum Center, a 2,800-seat theater in the heart of the Cultural District, is one of its most impressive attractions. In 1928, the Benedum opened as the Stanley Theater; it was known as “Pittsburgh’s Palace of Amusement” and was intended to bring joy to those suffering during the Great Depression.

In 1984, the $43 million renovation of the Stanley to the Benedum became the Cultural Trust’s first project after its founding. The Byham Theater — formerly the Gayety Theater — underwent a similar transformation in the 1990s, helping to turn the area into the vibrant district it is today.

The now 14-square-block Cultural District is situated in Downtown. It boasts a total of 90 shops, 50 restaurants, and seven theaters, as well as several parks and art galleries, all intended for the promotion of local arts. There are endless entertainment possibilities in the district. Most notably, the Cultural District provides many venues intended for classical music. From stunning symphony concerts to outstanding opera performances, Pittsburgh has a vibrant classical scene that will appeal to any music lover.

The world-renowned Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) has made a home at Heinz Hall, a 2,661-seat concert hall located at 600 Penn Ave. Throughout the year, the PSO presents both pop and classical concerts, ensuring that it offers something for everyone.

Recently, the PSO performed The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, a musical presentation of one of the world’s most popular video game soundtracks. Among other performances, the upcoming season features “Year of the Dragon” celebrations, a concert featuring flautist Lorna McGhee, a recital by Russian pianist Olga Kern, and a performance with Glee star Matthew Morrison at the end of September.

If you’re interested in something more dramatic, the Pittsburgh Opera offers a different type of musical experience in the Benedum Center. This season, the Pittsburgh Opera will be presenting several classic operas, including Rigoletto, Don Giovanni, and Madama Butterfly.

In addition to the Pittsburgh Opera, the Benedum Center houses the PNC Broadway Across America series, which draws several Broadway productions to Pittsburgh each season. The lineup for this season includes Les Misérables, The Book of Mormon, and Anything Goes.

If you’re looking for something fun to do with friends or just a night of exploring, you should consider attending a performance in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. Not only will it be a memorable experience, but the trip to Downtown alone will help introduce you to the diverse history and wonderful city life in Pittsburgh. There’s much to do in this great city, and as first-years, there are plenty of new experiences to be had.