Resembling a giant UFO poised for liftoff, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, the performing arts center created by virtuoso architect Santiago Calatrava, completes the ambitious cultural complex City of Arts and Sciences, in Valencia, a Mediterranean port city three hours south of Barcelona via high-speed Euromed train, or three hours southeast of Madrid. The 475,000-square- foot building joins Calatrava’s designs for L’Hemisfèric— a cyclopean planetarium and IMAX theater—and the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, as well as an oceanographic park created by the late Spanish-born architect Félix Candela.
The building is defined by a pair of gravity-defying, cantilevered concrete shells cradled beneath a sweeping prow. Its spectacular exterior gleams with fragments of broken mosaic tile. Curving, white-ribbed glass walls open up the lobby to views of gardens and reflecting pools.
Inside the center are a 1,700-seat opera and ballet theater; an auditorium, for orchestral and choral performances; and the 400-seat Aula Magistral, for chamber music concerts. Beside the Palau is the smaller Martín i Soler Theater, which has 400 seats from which to view experimental drama and dance, plus galleries for fine- and decorative-art exhibitions.
Throughout the fall, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía will celebrate its first season with stage productions and concert performances ranging from Mozart to Philip Glass. Conductor Lorin Maazel, music director of the New York Philharmonic, presides as the center’s first artistic director. He and other leading conductors, Zubin Mehta and Jesús López-Cobos, are presenting a bold program of 11 opera productions, along with symphonic and jazz concerts and dance. International audiences are sure to welcome a feature that can make even the most complex operatic plots clear: text screens on every seat, offering translations into English, French, German, and Spanish.