Lincoln Center Fall 2010 Preview
Arts & Culture
by James Gaddy, 09/01/2010
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This fall, long-standing traditions and innovative shows—interpreted by artistic voices both experienced and novel—will share common ground on the center stage at Lincoln Center. The venerable institution now continues to build on the energy of the 50th-anniversary events that concluded earlier this year. On September 27, conductor James Levine will celebrate his 40th year as music director of The Metropolitan Opera as Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, begins his second. The New York City Ballet, meanwhile, is debuting its first-ever fall season while continuing its storied holiday tradition of The Nutcracker.
The performances at Lincoln Center venues will include plenty of classic work by Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Felix Mendelssohn, but new faces and rarely presented works will define the season as well: a Leonard Bernstein opera never before produced in New York, the US premiere of a new Wynton Marsalis genre-bending symphony and a lighthearted opera–cum–domestic comedy from Richard Strauss. And the season showcases historic artists who should be better known: the work of Duke Ellington confidante Billy Strayhorn will be performed by R&B singer José James, and jazz artist Nancy Wilson will play The Allen Room. Virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell plays favorites from Jean Sibelius, and the New York Philharmonic will debut an unconventional work by its Finnish composer-in-residence Magnus Lindberg.
New York City Ballet
The fall season kicks off on September 14, when the New York City Ballet opens its year at Lincoln Center with a major revival of Peter Martins' The Magic Flute, first performed in 1982. In previous years, November's performances of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker signaled the beginning of the season, but the group decided to shift its schedule to coincide with the traditional start of the rest of New York City's cultural season. (The annual Christmas production will begin on November 26.)
From September to October, the company will perform 28 different ballets, including 13 works by George Balanchine and five by Jerome Robbins (the New York City Ballet's co-founding choreographers). A gala performance on October 7 will feature the New York premiere of a new ballet by New York City Ballet principal dancer Benjamin Millepied, set to a commissioned score by Pulitzer Prize–winning composer David Lang.
The Chamber Music Society
The Chamber Music Society fall schedule similarly pays homage to its musical inheritance, as artistic directors Wu Han and David Finckel have devised programs that showcase composers who have learned from, and built upon, the innovations of their predecessors. On September 21, Han, a pianist, and Finckel, a cellist, will open the society's season with violinist Gil Shaham for a festive evening of Franz Joseph Haydn's "Gypsy Trio," followed by works from Johannes Brahms and Ernst von Dohnányi. In October, pianist Juho Pohjonen will be the featured artist in "An Evening with Mozart," during which he will play four pieces that were either arranged or composed by Mozart in the years just after the American Revolution.
The New York Philharmonic
On September 22, Alan Gilbert will begin his second season as music director of the New York Philharmonic when he conducts the US premiere of Wynton Marsalis' Swing Symphony (Symphony No. 3). The highly anticipated piece, which integrates a jazz band with a traditional orchestra, will be performed jointly by the New York Philharmonic and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
September 23–25 and 28, one of the greatest violin virtuosos of the 20th century, Itzhak Perlman, will perform works from Richard Strauss and Felix Mendelssohn. And following the muse of a more avant-garde sensibility, Gilbert will lead the New York premiere of Magnus Lindberg's unconventional and groundbreaking work, Kraft, in October. The rare performance of this theatrical composition promises an entertaining night: it features a large orchestra, groups of musicians dispersed throughout the hall and makeshift instruments acquired from local junkyards.
Jazz at Lincoln Center
The Jazz at Lincoln Center season begins on September 25 when legendary drummer Roy Haynes, who apprenticed with Charlie Parker and Sarah Vaughan, plays two sets: one with his own band and another with an all-star supergroup including Wynton Marsalis on trumpet. On October 1 and 2, New Orleans natives Terence Blanchard and Branford Marsalis (brother of Wynton) blend their different yet complementary styles of contemporary jazz for two shows at the Rose Theater. The next week, beloved jazz singer Nancy Wilson will reprise selections from her classic recordings with legends Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing during two shows at The Allen Room.
The Hall of Fame series in November also promises a special delight in a program featuring the music of Billy Strayhorn, a key collaborator with Duke Ellington and the composer of such classics as "Take the 'A' Train," "Lush Life" and "Lotus Blossom." José James, known for his low, assured voice that borrows from soul, R&B and jazz, is the featured guest singer.
The Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera also reconsiders classic work through the lens of a contemporary sensibility. On September 27, James Levine opens his 40th season at The Metropolitan Opera with the first of two installments of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle, Das Rheingold, the story of a magical cache of gold and the treachery employed by gods, giants and dwarves to take hold of it. The performance will star "bad boy" superstar Bryn Terfel, known for his enthusiastic portrayal of villains, in his first US appearance as Wotan, the ruler of the gods who strives to secure the gold for his own purposes. Outstanding mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe will play the role of Fricka, his wife.
Stephen Wadsworth's new production of Boris Godunov—conducted by Valery Gergiev, the Russian conductor known for electrifying performances—opens on October 11. In the opera, a Russian czar haunted by guilt descends into emotional collapse; German bass master René Pape, in a much-anticipated performance, will sing the monumental title role for the first time at the Met.
With some of the most glorious arias and oddest plot conclusion in the Giuseppe Verdi canon, Don Carlo, premieres on November 22 in a new production by Nicholas Hytner (artistic director of London's National Theatre), conducted by the young superstar Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
The New York City Opera
The New York City Opera is defining its sensibility by putting on two daring yet stylistically different works. Intermezzo, the domestic comedy by Richard Strauss that opens on October 31, offers a stark counterpoint to the season opener on October 27, which is Leonard Bernstein's only full-length opera, A Quiet Place. Bernstein's final work originally began as a sequel to his 1952 cultural commentary, Trouble in Tahiti, which examines a dysfunctional married couple's relationship using both tonal and atonal percussive passages. The opera has never been staged professionally since Bernstein's death in 1990.
Youth and experience come together in particularly innovative combinations in this year's festival programming. The Coca-Cola Generations in Jazz Festival, which begins on September 6 with the Grammy Award–winning O'Farrill Family Band, showcases a wide range of performers, exploring and juxtaposing different generations from across the full spectrum of jazz. On September 13, the event pairs up Philadelphia-based jazz guitarist Pat Martino with Kyrgyzstan émigré Eldar on piano. On September 20, the festival will stage a performance of two vocal stylists from vastly different milieus: Sheila Jordan, who was discovered in the early 1960s in New York, will sing alongside Omaha, Nebraska, native Karrin Allyson, who released her first album in 1992. Other performers include saxophonist Charles McPherson and pianist Kenny Barron.
The New York Film Festival opens on September 24 with The Social Network, a new film from David Fincher. The much-buzzed-about project relates the story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and provides an illuminating portrait of contemporary times. The Festival continues with strong showings from the old guard—Clint Eastwood, Mike Leigh, Olivier Assayas—as well as new directors making their mark. Charles Ferguson follows up his incisive Iraq War documentary, No End in Sight, with Inside Job, a revealing account of the current economic crisis.
Appropriately, a season of inspired collaborations and new beginnings will end with a new annual fall event: the White Light Festival, which focuses on the spiritual resonance of music from different cultures. The festival's first show is on October 31 at Avery Fisher Hall, when conductor Daniel Harding will lead Europe's revered Dresden Staatskapelle orchestra in Johannes Brahms' German Requiem, one of the most profoundly beautiful expressions of grief in the history of symphonic music. On November 2, Philippe Herreweghe leads a program of works inspired by spiritual themes, including a rare US performance of Anton Bruckner's Mass in E Minor.
Other performances at the festival include a production by Belgian/Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who blends the gravity-defying athleticism of China's Shaolin monks with modern ballet in Sutra. The festival ends with an event that is indicative of the Lincoln Center season as a whole: Indian maestro Roysten Abel directs the Manganiyars, a community of Muslim musicians who have incorporated the worship of Hindu deities into their songs. The eclectic collaboration combines classical and folk traditions and a colorful, multilevel set for a performance that spans age and experience, dialects and instruments, comedy, tragedy and social taboo to achieve a uniquely human celebration.