Musical chairs at Caramoor

In 1946, Walter and Lucie Rosen opened their country home in Katonah to the public for a concert that proved to be the first of many. This month, 70 years later, husband-and-wife Broadway stars Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley will perform their show “He Said/She Said” in the Rosens’ former home, now the Rosen House, at the heart of Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts.

Caramoor CEO Jeffrey Haydon charts its journey from country home to a garden of music:

“Originally, the Rosen House was built as a farmhouse. It was very popular back in the ’20s and ‘30s for the wealthy in New York to have country homes that were working farms. They would actually put milk, fruits, vegetables and flowers on the train and send them down into the city for their apartments. So Caramoor started off with that in mind.”

But Walter, a financier, and Lucie — who played the theremin, a haunting early electronic instrument — had more in mind for their country place, a Mediterranean-style dwelling whose eclectic interiors would showcase different periods of art history.

“They had an idea to build a big house on another part of the property,” Haydon adds, “and when the Depression hit, they decided it would be a little too ostentatious to proceed with plans to build this huge palazzo. Then Walter Rosen had a vision for converting the farmhouse into the regular house.  That’s quite a bit of vision. Here’s a courtyard with animal stalls, and these same animal stalls now have these gorgeous rooms that were imported from Europe. That was really the first transformation.”

This year, Caramoor began the year-long process of renovating the Music Room in the Rosen House, giving it 200 new chairs just before the first show of the spring season on March 13. What’s more, the chairs were set up in a semi-circle, making the experience more inclusive for both the audience and the performers.

“We had a great audience there,” Haydon contines. “And everyone was excited, because they experienced the space in a completely different way. It (was) a very intimate vocal performance with acting and a little bit of costumes, so you just felt like you were right there in the moment, in the scene… There was no kind of traditional fourth wall separating you from the stage… So it just had a very direct impact on the artists (the center’s Vocal Rising Stars) and the audience that was there.”

The renovation also provides the opportunity for the Music Room to continue to host traditional staging as well. “There are different times where different configurations are more appropriate,” Haydon says.

Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley’s performance in May will feature the more usual rows of seats. “We had thought about doing it cabaret-style, but the demand was so great, we went with the traditional seating style.”

The addition of seating risers will provide those sitting at the back with a better vantage point from which to see the show. Not to mention the fact that it allows for a larger audience to attend.

Caramoor is also moving forward with a bathroom expansion. “It has been a long time coming, and we’re very excited about doing that, because we think that the entire Rosen House will be much more functional and welcoming.”

That’s key.  “It makes the space more accessible. It wasn’t the easiest space for people to navigate in wheelchairs…. So we need some good accommodations for people to be able to access the restrooms and seating area.”

Ultimately, Caramoor wants to bring more people into its world — a world in which the arts and the beauty of nature, and the love the Rosens shared for both, are carefully preserved.

For more, visit caramoor.org.

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