While embracing the classics, from The Peony Pavilion to the Paris Opera Ballet, the Festival also places particular emphasis on contemporary artistic viewpoints and multidisciplinary works that push the boundaries of traditional performance. The upcoming season, featuring companies and artists from China, England, France, Germany, Japan, Spain and the United States does that, and then some.
As Nigel Redden, Festival Director says, "Globalization and cross-cultural influences are a constant phenomenon in every part of the world, and certainly in the arts world. Artists are creating more and more work that blends east and west, crosses boundaries and mixes cultural traditions in powerful and unique ways."
A case in point is the Festival's biggest production. Monkey: Journey to the West (July 6 _28) is a music theater spectacle based on a Chinese epic and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, who helmed The Peony Pavilion at the 1999 Festival. While "Monkey" utilizes many elements of Chinese performance: actors, singers, acrobats, aerialists, and martial artists: the production has music composed by British musician Damon Albarn, known in the U.S. as the singer/songwriter in the hugely successful group Blur, and visuals by award-winning designer and animator Jamie Hewlett, co-creator with Albarn of the virtual band Gorillaz. It's a case of Chinese epic meets Western pop, and a potent dose of Japanese-style anime.
English director Simon McBurney: whose company Complicite is named after a theory the French mime-mentor Jacques Lecoq had about actors and audiences in synergistic compliance: offers Shun-kin (July 9 _13) co-produced with barbicanbite09 and Tokyo's Setagaya Public Theater. Shun-kin uses two 1933 texts by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki: A Portrait of Shun-kin, based on a Thomas Hardy story and influenced by Edgar Alan Poe, and the essay "In Praise of Shadows." The story revolves around the relationship between Sasuke, a domineering Osaka merchant's blind daughter, and Shun-kin who becomes her servant and secret lover.
Also on the theater docket, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (July 9 _13), from the provocative 1782 Choderlos de Laclos novel of innocence and corruption, would seem to be a French classic through and through. But as presented by Paris's Th_ê¢ter de l'Atelier, this version, although in French, is something different: the company specializes in presenting classic and contemporary English and American plays in French translations. Based on British playwright Christopher Hampton's play in English, this production, set as a rehearsal for a play within a play, is directed by John Malkovich, whose big break in cinema came when he portrayed Valmont in the 1988 Stephen Frears film adaptation of the Hampton play.
Then there's Matsukaze (Wind in the Pines) (July 18 _20), an opera in one act by Toshio Hosokawa, one of Japan's leading living composers. Based on a Noh theater classic by 15th-century master Kiami Kannan and revised by Zeami, it appears to be a strictly Japanese import. But look again. This story of two sisters who return from the grave to pursue a man they both love actually has a libretto by German poet/dramatist Hannah Dübgen. Moreover, Hosokawa's musical idiom is western, with influences from Franz Shubert to Anton Webern. The opera features four soloists, a small chorus, and a chamber orchestra, and is directed by Chen Shi-Zheng.
The Blind (July 9 _14) is an a capella opera with its own cross-cultural genesis. Composed by the prolific Lera Auerbach, who was born in Chelyabinsk at Siberia's gateway but lives in New York City, the opera premiered at the Konzerthaus Berlin with the Berliner Kammeroper and Vocalconsort Berlin. Adapted from Belgian Francophone writer Maurice Maeterlinck's surreal 1890 fable, the opera tells the tale of 12 nameless blind people abandoned on a desolate island. Sung in English, this new staging is by British director John La Bouchardi_re (who directed The Full Monteverdi seen in sold-out performances at Festival 2007) in collaboration with American Opera Projects. To create an immersive listening experience, audience members will be blindfolded for the entire performance.
Karlheinz Stockhausen's Michaels Reise Um Die Erde (Michael's Journey Around the World), the instrumental section from the "Donnerstag" (Thursday) portion of Stockhausen's seven-opera cycle Licht, will be performed by German contemporary ensemble musikFabrik, directed by Carlus Padrissa, a founder of the experimental Catalan theater troupe, La Fura dels Baus (July 18 _20). Licht has an interesting American connection. The composer was first inspired to write the opus (it took him 26 years) at Lincoln Center in 1971. After conducting a concert at Avery Fisher Hall, Stockhausen was approached by an enigmatic stranger who urged him to become "the minister of sound transmission" and presented him with The Urantia Book, a religious/ philosophic/ scientific tome from the 1930s. In this multimedia production of the rarely-heard work, trumpeter Marco Blaauw, playing Michael the Archangel, is "flown" around the stage circling the earth exploring good and evil across the planet. Two other characters: Lucifer and Eve: are portrayed by instrumental soloists, a trombonist and bassethornist, respectively, who emerge from the ensemble.
When the seven-piece band Hanggai performs a onenight- only concert on July 16, there'll be no better example of the cross-cultural interplay of ideas and inspiration presented at this year's Festival. Hanggai, from China, stirs rock together with drone, banjo and throat-singing (a Mongolian technique in which the singer emits two pitches at the same time). The group's music is a unique fusion of old and new, Mongolian folk songs fired by punk rock energy that has thrilled fans from Beijing to Bonnaroo.
As in Festival's past, there are those events created by artists whose work is so singular and uncategorizable that it can only be described as sui generis.
Zorn@60 celebrates the prolific New York composer, arranger and saxophonist John Zorn as he nears his 60th birthday. Zorn's music draws on his interest and experience in classical, jazz, rock, hardcore punk, klezmer, and improvisational music, as well as film, cartoons, philosophy, and mysticism. Two concerts (July 18, 20) will feature Zorn's complete string quartets on one night, and two vocal quartets on the other, along with his most recent monodrama, The Holy Visions.
Victoria Chaplin Thierr_e, a daughter of Charlie Chaplin, conceived and directs Murmurs (July 24 _28), collaborating with her daughter Aur_lia Thierr_e, who is the featured performer. The younger Thierr_e shares the stage with two male foils: circus artist Magnus Jakobsson and dancer Jaime Martinez: in a dream-like fantasy about a woman about to move from her house who confronts a topsy-turvy world of shape-shifting architecture, mysterious masked figures, and fantastic creatures. Victoria Thierr_e's 30-year, acclaimed body of work with her husband, Jean-Baptiste Thierr_e, includes Le Cirque Invisible (seen at Festival 1997); the duo are credited with inventing the "new circus" genre that has become a world-wide phenomenon. Aur_lia began her performing career as a child appearing in her parent's shows with her brother.
For its upcoming 18th edition, Lincoln Center Festival continues on its adventurous path. Says Nigel Redden, "Radically different ways of looking at similar subjects, new music from different traditions, stagings as varied as the subjects: the Festival again showcases the work of essential artists exploring their art compellingly."