Among the riches of music and dance the Festival offers this summer are the long-anticipated arrival in New York of the Mariinsky/Kirov Ring cycle, with Valery Gergiev on the podium; Philip Glass's Book of Longing, set to poetry of Leonard Cohen; the North American premieres of choreographer Fr_d_ric Flamand's Metapolis II (with d_cor by architect Zaha Hadid) and composer George Benjamin's opera Into the Little Hill; rarely-seen traditional music and dance of Mongolia; and the first U.S. performances of I Fagiolini's wildly acclaimed program The Full Monteverdi.
The biggest of the Festival's offerings is surely Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungs tetralogy, which gets underway on Friday (July 13) at the Metropolitan Opera House in a production from the Kirov Opera of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. Valery Gergiev, the Mariinsky's artistic director, will conduct; the design is by George Tsypin, who developed the production concept together with Gergiev. The Kirov is presenting the four operas of the Ring in close proximity, as Wagner intended, with one cycle on successive weekends (July 13-14 and 20-21) and a second on four consecutive weeknights (July 16-19).
Also on tap is the North American premiere of Into the Little Hill, a chamber opera by British composer George Benjamin. The libretto, by playwright Martin Crimp, is based on the fairy tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. All of the roles will be played by the two singers for whom the work was written: soprano Anu Komsi and contralto Hilary Summers; accompanying them will be the acclaimed Frankfurt-based group Ensemble Modern, who appear regularly at the Festival. Three performances at the Lynch Theater (at John Jay College), July 26-28.
Straddling the genres of opera and dance will be the Shen Wei Dance Arts company's Second Visit to the Empress. The music and text of this work are mainstays of the traditional Beijing Opera canon; Shen Wei's staging is evidently the first new one in two centuries. Three performances at the New York State Theater, on July 24, 28 and 29.
The modern dance flagship of this year's Lincoln Center Festival will be the North American premiere of Metapolis II, a "spectacular convergence of ballet, film, video and architecture" performed by the Ballet National de Marseille and created by that company's artistic director, Fr_d_ric Flamand. The costumes and scenic design are created by Zaha Hadid, the world-renowned architect who in 2004 became the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize. Three performances at the New York State Theater, July 25-27.
Dance is the subject of the Festival's video art installation: Slow Dancing, a multi-channel montage by artist David Michalek making its world premiere at Lincoln Center beginning today. The work examines a wide array of performers and styles: Allegra Kent, Herman Cornejo, Trisha Brown, Judith Jamison, William Forsythe, Bill T. Jones, Shen Wei, and Benny Ninja; ballet, modern dance, tap, flamenco, hip-hop, Javanese court dance, capoeira, Indian Kuchipuri, and voguing (among others). Michalek shot his subjects with a high-definition camera at 1,000 frames per second — and has slowed down five seconds of movement from each dancer to last about ten minutes each. A viewer might concentrate on a single dancer at a time or watch the interplay of the bodies shown on each of three five-story screens. Nightly (9 p.m. to 1 a.m.) on the fa‹ade of the New York State Theater facing Josie Robertson Plaza, July 10-29.
Composer Philip Glass, who turned 70 in January, will perform in the New York premiere of Book of Longing, a piece based on a recent collection of poetry by singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. While Lincoln Center describes the composition as a "concert work," it is receiving a staging by noted modern dance choreographer Susan Marshall, who directed Glass's Les Enfants Terribles. Glass's ensemble will give two performances at the Rose Theater in the Jazz at Lincoln Center complex, July 14-15.
Another new-music treat arrives the following weekend: a joint concert by the quartet So Percussion and the "surrealist electronica duo" Matmos, with Zeena Parkins on electronic harp(!). As the Festival's press release puts it, "Separately, the groups have made beautiful music from, among other things: amplified crayfish nerve tissue, the pages of Bibles turning, ethernet cable, duct tape, radio fuzz, liposuction surgery, frequency response tests for defective hearing aids, kerosene tanks, teacups, and tuned flowerpots." Their program together will draw "inspiration from the qualities of alupolitical affairs, and whatever else strikes their fancy." Two performances in Jazz at Lincoln Center's Allen Room, July 20-21.
And then there's old music in a new context: The Full Monteverdi, a staged presentation of the composer's Fourth Book of Madrigals that has been greeted with wild acclaim all over the U.K. and Europe. The British vocal ensemble I Fagiolini — whose name, according to director Robert Hollingworth, "has been misspelt, mispronounced and (fortunately) misunderstood throughout the world" — and stage director developed John La Bouchardire the innovative performance concept, in which the performers use Monteverdi's music, with its poignant harmonies and scorching dissonances expressing the joys and agonies of romance, to act out lovers' quarrels in a crowded dining room. Seven performances in the Kaplan Penthouse, July 22-29; no late seating.
Even more ancient music comes to the Lincoln Center Festival from the far side of the world, as a troupe of nine artists from Mongolia perform traditional music and dance in seven performances at the Clark Studio Theater July 23-28. In addition, the storyteller and musician Burenbayar will give the first known performance in North America of the 13th-century national epic, The Secret History of the Mongols, which recounts the life story of Genghis Khan and is considered the founding work of Mongolian literature. The eight-hour performance will be given in two parts on successive Sundays, July 22 and 29, at the Clark Studio Theater.
Among the many theater offerings at this year's Lincoln Center Festival, three may be of interest to opera fans. The Mexico City-based Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes will perform De Monstruos y Prodigios: La Historia de los Castrati, a play by Jorge Kuri and Claudio Vald_s Kuri based in part on the book The World of the Castrati: The History of an Extraordinary Operatic Phenomenon by music historian Patrick Barbier. And Wu-Hsing Kuo, who impressed so many viewers with his performance as the Yin-Yang Master in Tan Dun's The First Emperor, will give two programs with the Contemporary Legend Theatre of Taiwan, which he co-founded and directs. The first will be of two short operas in traditional Chinese style, The Tipsy Concubine and Farewell My Concubine; the second will be a Chinese adaptation of King Lear in which Kuo himself plays all the characters.
Full information about and tickets for the 2007 Lincoln Center Festival are available at www.lincolncenter.org.