The 1999 Lincoln Center Festival, which runs July 7-25, will feature a new stagework by director Robert Wilson, a trio of Brian Friel plays, and The Peony Pavilion, the 20-hour, 16th-century Chinese opera the festival attempted but failed to present in 1998.
The Peony Pavilion will take over La Guardia Concert Hall (65th Street and Amsterdam Avenue), which will be transformed into an opulent Chinese garden, complete with songbirds, water fowl, and fish pond. The opera will be staged in three cycles presented over the course of the festival, each cycle containing six episodes. Twenty actors will play more than 160 roles. Chen Shi-Zheng will direct.
The Peony Pavilion was to have opened the 1998 Lincoln Center Festival. The production, however, was seized on June 18 by the Shanghai Bureau of Culture and its director, Ma Bomin, who criticized it as containing "feudal," "ignorant" and "pornographic" aspects. The show's costumes and sets were eventually released, but despite lengthy negotiations and several concessions on the part of the opera's director, Chen Shi-Zheng, Ma would not permit the cast to travel to New York and the production had to be canceled.
The current staging is a co-production of Lincoln Center Festival, Festival d' Automne Paris with Parc de la Villette and Theatre de Caen, the Hong Kong Arts Festival and the Sydney Festival.
July 7-10, for five performances only, the festival will offer The Days Before, Death, Destruction & Detroit III, a musical theatre piece which draws from Western mythologies of the apocalypse and Umberto Eco's novel "The Island of the Day Before." "Rather than making another statement about the end of the world," Wilson wrote in his notes for a summer 1998 workshop of the piece, "this work is more involved with retrieving messages from the history of revelations. There are two acts and twelve scenes. Each act contains six scenes. Knee plays will take place between each scene. The performance is approximately 200 minutes in length."
The Days Before is a continuation of Wilson's Death, Destruction & Detroit series. Part I premiered in Berlin in 1979; Part II in 1987, also in Berlin. Music for the work is composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto, who wrote the film score for "The Last Emperor." He is also of the founders of Yellow Magic Orchestra, an influential technopop group formed in 1978. The costumes and props are by Jacques Reynaud and Hans Thiemann; lighting is by Robert Wilson and A.J. Weissbard. Peter Bottazzi collaborated in set design and images.
The Abbey Theatre and Gate Theatre of Ireland will stage a three-play Brian Friel festival July 6-25. The Gate will mount Friel's translation of Uncle Vanya and his 1979 drama Aristocrats. The Abbey, meanwhile, will serve up the 1973 play The Freedom of the City.
Friel's other works include Molly Sweeney and Philadelphia, Here I Come. A new Friel play, Give Me Your Answer, Do!, is due to receive its American premiere at the Roundabout Theatre Company later this year.
Other theatre events include two premieres by the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, staged at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre at Broadway at 76th Street. They will be Black Codes from the Underground (July 7-11), a collaboration between South African playwright Duma Ndlovu and African-American playwrights Gregory A. Holtz and Layding Kaliba; and Maid (July 21-25), a work by experimental playwright Erik Ehn.
Maid, a deconstruction of the Little Mermaid myth, will be directed by Maria Mileaf. Ruben Polendo will pilot Black Codes, about a group of death row prisoners who idolize such African-American figures as Cassius Clay, Huey Newton, Jimi Hendrix and Nelson Mandela.
For more information about the Lincoln Center Festival visit the web-site at www.lincolncenter.org. or call (212) 721-6500.
-- By Robert Simonson