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Lincoln Center’s Summer Festival to Focus on Civic Bonds

Lincoln Center’s Summer Festival to Focus on Civic Bonds

Lincoln Center said on Wednesday that it would devote its summer festival to themes of community and civic participation, with a mix of hip-hop, comedy, dance, classical music and more under the motto “life, liberty and happiness.”

The festival, Summer for the City, will feature premieres of anthems about contemporary hopes and struggles. Classical music concerts will be more participatory than in the past; at one event, audience members will be asked to vote on the program. And civil rights will be prominent, with the New York premiere of an opera about Eric Garner, who died in 2014 at the hands of police officers on Staten Island.

“We know the performing arts have a role in strengthening our community and strengthening our civic bonds,” Shanta Thake, Lincoln Center’s chief artistic officer, said in an interview. “This is a time where we can really be together and celebrate the ideas and ideals that we all share.”

The third edition of the festival, which will run from June 12 to Aug. 10, is part of the center’s efforts to appeal to a younger, more diverse crowd, in part by promoting a broader array of genres, including pop music and social dance.

Under Henry Timms, Lincoln Center’s president and chief executive, the center has shifted its focus from classical music and international theater, prompting some criticism that it is not doing enough to promote traditional offerings. (Timms will depart his post in August; a search for his successor is in progress.)

After eliminating the Mostly Mozart Festival, a summer fixture since the 1970s, Lincoln Center renamed the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, saying that it was time to reimagine the ensemble for a modern and more inclusive age. This season, the Festival Orchestra of Lincoln Center, as the ensemble is now called, will convene for the first time under the rising conductor Jonathon Heyward.

In July, the orchestra will give the North American premiere of Huang Ruo’s interactive “City of Floating Sounds.” In August, it will perform “He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing,” a world premiere by Hannah Kendall.

Summer for the City will open with a commission led by the director James Blaszko that features the drag performers Sapphira Cristál, a finalist on the current season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and Monét X Change that will be “celebrating the fabulosity and queerness in opera,” according to a news release. The program will include works by Mozart and Mariah Carey.

Other highlights are a weeklong exploration of Indian culture in July, featuring the Ragamala Dance Company, DJ Rekha and others; and a comedy night that will include appearances by Aasif Mandvi and Hari Kondabolu.

The giant disco ball that has become a staple of the festival will once again hang over a dance floor built on Lincoln Center’s main plaza. The outdoor spaces, designed by the Broadway costume and set designer Clint Ramos, will this year evoke the “flora and fauna of the American prairie,” the center said.

Most of the more than 200 events will be free; tickets for some indoor performances will be sold at choose-what-you-pay prices, starting at $5.

The center said that about 380,000 people attended the festival last year, and that more than half identified as people of color; a third came from households with an annual income of less than $75,000; a quarter came from boroughs outside Manhattan.

“Live performance,” Thake said, “is one of the most important tools we have as a society to get people into conversation with their neighbors, with their neighborhood, with their sense of purpose and sense of belonging in a community.”


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