As the cooler September evenings draw New Yorkers back from the beach and into the concert hall, Lincoln Center opens its star-studded 2007-08 season. The Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera get back in full swing, while the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Great Performers, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Juilliard School, and the New York Philharmonic kick off their seasons. And, in late September, the 45th New York Film Festival gets underway.
One familiar venue, however, will be shuttered this fall: Alice Tully Hall is closed for renovations until Winter 2008-09. Thus, much of this year's New York Film Festival will temporarily move to Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall, and after an opening-night concert, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center will make its interim home at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on West 64th Street at Central Park West.
Meanwhile, over at the Metropolitan Opera house, the Met opens its season on September 24 with a brand-new production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, conducted by music director James Levine. Levine and new general manager Peter Gelb have embarked on an ambitious program to revitalize the Met by presenting new productions — often by imaginative directors from other disciplines — and the new Lucia, directed by acclaimed theater artist Mary Zimmerman, is a prime example. Indeed, Zimmerman's Lucia di Lammermoor is the first of a staggering seven new productions that will be unveiled during the upcoming season — the most new productions the Met has presented in a single season since its inaugural 1966-67 season at Lincoln Center.
Zimmerman, best known for the lyrical, visually stunning production of Ovid's Metamorphoses that earned her a Tony award for direction in 2002, will make her Met debut with Lucia di Lammermoor. Zimmerman says her visual inspiration for the production came from a trip to Culzean Castle on the west coast of Scotland, an edifice that clings to the side of a cliff and is surrounded by formal gardens and alleys of trees — "a place haunted by madness, the setting for a ghostly Victorian tale." Her production team includes the set, costume, and lighting designers from Metamorphoses; to play the tragic Lucia, she has cast Natalie Dessay, a French soprano known for her exceptional acting. Marcello Giordani and Mariusz Kwiecen also star.
September at the Met also brings a highly anticipated revival of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette starring the youthful, glamorous duo of Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón. Having performed Gounod's version of the Shakespeare tragedy to considerable acclaim elsewhere, Netrebko and Villazón bring their fresh takes on these classic roles to the Met beginning September 25, with Plácido Domingo conducting.
Just across the plaza at the New York State Theater, the New York City Opera launches its 2007-08 season on September 11 with the New York premiere of Margaret Garner, composed by Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour and with a libretto by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Based on the historical events that inspired Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Beloved, the new opera tells the true story of Margaret Garner, a runaway slave who, faced with capture by federal marshals in 1856, killed her two-year-old daughter rather than return her to slavery. Garner subsequently became the defendant in a much-publicized trial concerning the nature of her crime: Was it murder or destruction of property? Music Director George Manahan conducts, and Tazewell Thompson (2004's Dialogues of the Carmelites) directs this American tragedy, with Tracie Luck (in the title role), Lisa Daltirus, Gregg Baker, and Thomas Barrett all making their company debuts.
City Opera repertory favorites La bohème and Don Giovanni have their first performances this month. And on September 28, City Opera rolls out another new production: a double bill of Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, directed by Stephen Lawless (2006's Semele) and conducted by George Manahan. Direct from The Dallas Opera, the new production, set in Italy in the 1940s, is inspired by Italian neorealist cinema (Visconti, Rossellini) and marks the return of the operas to the City Opera stage for the first time in fifteen years.
Meanwhile, opening night for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (September 19) moves south to Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall. Using the move as an impetus for musical exploration, the Society begins its season with a program entitled "American Explorations" — a wide-ranging survey of American-inspired music that includes Igor Stravinsky's Ragtime, Antonìn Dvorák's String Quartet No. 12 in F Major ("The American"), Charles Ives's "Halloween," and recent works like Alan Louis Smith's song cycle, Vignettes: Covered Wagon Woman (from the Daily Journal of Margaret Ann Alsip Frink, 1850).
Throughout September, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola plays host to a procession of gifted jazz artists. Great Performers returns on September 30 with a pre-season concert by the American Symphony Orchestra, Leon Botstein conducting. And on September 23 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy and pianist Hong Xu join the Juilliard Orchestra for a free concert of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3.
At Avery Fisher Hall, the New York Philharmonic opens its 166th season with a bang — as befits a season that includes 111 subscription concerts over 31 weeks. September 18's opening-night gala features celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Music Director Lorin Maazel in an all-Dvorák program, which will be broadcast on PBS's Live From Lincoln Center. Yo-Yo Ma performs Dvorák's romantic 1895 Cello Concerto, considered by many to be one of the greatest works in the cello repertory. The program also includes the composer's Carnival Overture and his Seventh Symphony.
But before opening night, the Philharmonic offers a pre-season bonus: three concerts of movie music, led by composer-conductor John Williams. The programs will feature selections from the scores for Memoirs of a Geisha and the Harry Potter films, among others. Also on the bill: a salute to the classic movie musicals of director Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), hosted by Donen himself.
September 2007 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of West Side Story on Broadway. On September 20, to celebrate that important theatrical anniversary, legendary writer Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book for the musical, will discuss his work on West Side Story in the first of a series of programs called A Rose by Any Other Name: Adaptations of Shakespeare, which will continue through December with artists from the theater, ballet, and music worlds. Laurents's many other achievements include the libretto for Gypsy as well as screenplays for The Way We Were and Hitchcock's Rope.
And September wouldn't be September without the Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual celebration of the art of cinema. The 45th New York Film Festival opens on September 28 with the North American premiere of The Darjeeling Limited, directed by Wes Anderson. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman play three brothers taking a train ride across India in the latest movie by the creator of such offbeat, meticulously crafted films as Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.
Among the 17-day festival's offerings is its centerpiece film, Joel and Ethan Coen's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country for Old Men. A crime thriller set near the Rio Grande, No Country for Old Men stars Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Woody Harrelson and promises plenty of the stylized, off-kilter, cinematic violence for which the Coen Brothers (Blood Simple, Fargo) are known. Also included are Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a Palme d'Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival; a salute to renowned Brazilian director Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, and a black-tie gala tribute to forty years of New Line Cinema, including a sneak peek at New Line's forthcoming The Golden Compass, directed by Chris Weitz and starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.
Joy Goodwin writes about the arts for The New York Times, The New York Sun, The Village Voice, and The New Yorker's "Goings on About Town."