With the dawn of the new century less than a year away, Lincoln Center, with the announcement of its New Visions series, is already planning novel ways of looking at classical art structures to usher in the next millennium.
The plan is simple. Take a classical piece of music -- a Bach or such -- and commission a contemporary director, designer or choreographer to find a bold way of re-viewing the piece. But the hitch is this: not just changing the setting of a piece to make it more "relevant" to an audience (e.g., setting Macbeth in, say, war-torn Iraq) but finding inherent themes to the pieces and, like a jazz musician, riffing off them.
For New Visions, an off-shoot of Lincoln Center's acclaimed "Great Performers" series, five stagings will occur over the course of five months.
The series begins Jan. 15 & 16, 1999 with John Kelly & Sally Rothenberg's Moondrunk, combining chamber music, dance, a shadow play and other theatrical elements with composer Schoenberg's expressionistic "Pierrot Lunaire" as its centerpiece.
"Pierrot Lunaire" is scored for five instrumentalists and a vocalist performing "sprechgesang," a vocal technique devised by Schoenberg which hovers between speaking and singing. The text comprises the German translation of 21 poems by Albert Giroud, all centered around the classic commedia dell'arte character, Pierrot. Director/performer/choreographer Kelly (Diary of a Somnambulist, Pass the Blutwurst, Bitte) creates both solo and ensemble multi media "dance-theatre" works. Kelly achieved fame in the late eighties for his post modern drag shows (including a Joni Mitchell personation) and his notable "basso contratenore" voice and has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim fellowship, two Bessie Awards, two Obie Awards, and five consecutive Choreographer fellowships from the NEA.
Pianist and essayist, Rothenberg has earned critical acclaim for exploring interconnections between music and literature in her popular "Music Speaks" programs. Rothenberg is currently the artistic director of the renowned Da Camera of Houston.
The New Visions series continues Jan. 28-30, 1999 with Beowulf, a half sung, half-spoken evocation of the epic poem by early-music specialist Benjamin Bagby. Bagby, co-founder of the medieval music ensemble Sequentia, will accompany himself on a medieval harp.
Canadian director/designer Robert Lepage (Elsinore, Seven Streams of the River Ota) collaborates with soprano Rebecca Blankenship on Gustave Mahler's song cycle, Kindertotenlieder, Feb. 18, 19 & 20, 1999.
On March 18-20, 1999, classic opera revisionist Peter Sellars will present Bach's Cantatas Nos. 199, 170, and 82, with mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt.
Rounding out the season will be opera diva Jessye Norman (Robert Wilson's Alceste) and choreographer/dancer/director Bill T. Jones, creating How! Do! We! Do!, which includes selections by Schubert, Berlioz, Mozart, along with American spirituals, May 22 & 25, 1999.
For tickets ($20 - $50), or more information, call the "Great Performers at Lincoln Center" Hotline at (212) 875-5937.
-- By Sean McGrath