(Posted this morning on the TONY Blog.)
It's getting tough to remember a time when Lincoln Center's annual Mostly Mozart Festival was something you'd greet with a yawn. The announcement for this summer's edition (July 29–August 23) arrived this morning, with news that innovative Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho will be the festival's second composer-in-residence. Her La Passion de Simone, a quasi-operatic paean to French philosopher Simone Weil, receives its U.S. premiere on Wednesday, August 13, with repeat performances on August 15 and 17, at the Rose Theater. Peter Sellars will direct, soprano Dawn Upshaw will be at center stage and dynamic conductor Susanna Mälkki makes her New York debut at the head of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
There's more Saariaho in store: On August 14, also at the Rose Theater, Mälkki will conduct the CBSO in the New York premiere of the composer's Notes on Light, with cellist Anssi Kartunen as soloist. The following night, Kartunen, pianist Tuija Hakkila and percussionist David Cossin take over the Kaplan Penthouse for an intimate evening of pieces by Saariaho and Debussy. And the Emerson String Quartet plays her recent Terra Memoria, with works by Mozart and Schubert, at Avery Fisher Hall on August 21.
As has become customary for this festival, period-instrument ensembles are well represented. Particularly exciting this summer is the Mostly Mozart debut of Rinaldo Alessandrini and his Concerto Italiano, presenting two concerts: sacred vocal works by Scarlatti, Pergolesi and Melani on August 4, and a feast of Vivaldi concertos on August 5. Returning to the festival are the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (in a nearly three-hour Mozart marathon July 31) and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (a concert performance of Mozart's opera La clemenza di Tito on August 3, with sensational mezzo Alice Coote as Sesto).
Then there's the house band: the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, still riding high on the buzz that music director Louis Langrée has provided since his arrival. Among the guest artists joining the ensemble this summer are tenor Paul Groves, alto Anna Larsson, soprano Christiane Oelze, conductor Jiri Belohlavek, violinist Janine Jansen, violist Maxim Rysanov, clarinetist Kari Kriikku and pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Benedetto Lupo and Mihaela Ursuleasa.
Other points of interest this summer will include the local premiere of Samoan choreographer Lemi Ponifasio's Requiem, originally created for Vienna's New Crowned Hope Festival in 2006; a film series featuring Leonard Bernstein conducting Mozart (neatly foreshadowing this fall's citywide Bernstein celebration); and interactive video installations by Lynette Wallworth in the Frederick P. Rose Hall Atrium.
By now we should probably be used to all the wonderful offerings and novelties the Mostly Mozart Festival is providing. Even so, that this announcement has become something to anticipate is still a pretty novel sensation. A press release with more details on everything you've just read here and more can be found here; a complete, chronological list of events is here.