Lehman Center soars into 30th Anniversary season

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“And now for the first time in the Bronx,” said Eva Bornstein on Saturday night at Lehman Center to introduce salsa singer Victor Manuelle.

She’s gotten used to saying those words to introduce performers at the center, which kicked off its 30th anniversary season with the sold out show.

For the past five years Ms. Bornstein has been the executive director of the Lehman Center, carrying on its 30-year legacy of providing entertainment to this northern borough.

The 2,300-seat theatre opened in 1980 with a show by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Some legendary performers have graced the stage since then, including Ray Charles, Julio Iglesias, Marcel Marceau, Celia Cruz, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Gladys Knight, B.B. King, Isaac Stern and on and on and on.

The center prides itself on changing with the Bronx.

“The center evolves around the people,” Ms. Bornstein said recently from the front row of the theatre.

Since taking control of the programming five years ago, she’s addedmore headliners and more salsa to complement the stellar regular lineup with orchestras and ballets. As the demographics of the Bronx changed, so did the Lehman Center lineup.

This year there are shows catering to Latino audiences including El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico and Salsa Palooza, but also classics including the Russian National Ballet Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet and the State Ballet Theatre of Russia’s Swan Lake.

Ms. Bornstein said her childhood in Communist Poland has helped her remain dedicated to providing the Bronx with entertainment.

“Communist Poland was really gray. Grim. Bad,” she said. “My mom took me every day to theaters, concerts, ballets and that enlightened my life.

It kind of saved my life. You escape the reality of everyday life for two hours being somewhere else in your mind. Being in Russia, being in Poland, being in the Philippines, being in Puerto Rico.”

To escape to these places this season, you can attend one of the Russian ballets, the Opole Philharmonic of Poland, the Bayanihan Philippine National Dance Company or sing “Feliz Navidad” with Puerto Rican star Jose Feliciano.

One dedicated patron from the Bronx, Steven Bussell, has been seeing shows for more than twenty years.

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