After more than two years of upheaval brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Lincoln Center will stage a festival this summer aimed at helping New York City heal.
Called Summer for the City, the festival will take place across 10 outdoor spaces and three indoor stages at the campus from mid-May to mid-August and will be programmed around themes of rejoicing, reclaiming and remembering. It is also part of Lincoln Center’s efforts to recalibrate its image as an exclusive bastion of classical music and appeal to a younger, more diverse crowd.
The center plans to feature more popular music and install a large disco ball, 10 feet in diameter, that will hang over a dance floor at the center’s main plaza.
“My hope is that we’re making space for people to find their neighbors again, to find each other again and to find their own inner performer,” Shanta Thake, the center’s chief artistic officer, said in an interview. “And to really be in their whole body with other New Yorkers and come back together again as a city.”
The festival, which is expected to include over 300 events and 1,000 artists, is the first under Thake, who joined Lincoln Center last year with a mission of broadening its appeal beyond classical music and ballet into genres like hip-hop, poetry and songwriting.
This year’s programming will open with a mass singalong on the Josie Robertson Plaza, featuring the Young People’s Chorus of New York, under the direction of Francisco J. Núñez, and including classics like “This Little Light of Mine” and Elton John’s “Your Song . ”
In August, two versions of Mozart’s Requiem will be on offer – a traditionally presented one, by the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, and a reimagined dance version, “Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth,” choreographed by Kyle Abraham and performed by his company, AIM, featuring the electronic musician Jlin.
Summer in the City will unite the center’s festivals – including the discontinued Lincoln Center Festival and the Mostly Mozart Festival, which has largely been put on hold since 2020.
The Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra will perform six pairs of concerts this summer, including a free opening program in July under the ensemble’s longtime music director, Louis Langrée, with Conrad Tao as the soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” (Tao will also play the William Grant Still solo “Out of the Silence” from “Seven Traceries.”)
Thake, a former associate artistic director at the Public Theater, where she spent a decade managing the cabaret-style venue Joe’s Pub, said that she hoped to broaden the audience for Mostly Mozart by integrating it with Lincoln Center’s other summer offerings.
“What we’re experimenting with this year is really the breaking down of our internal silos,” she said. “They’re all under the same banner, and this is one Lincoln Center audience that is very broad, and we’re going to see how that works.”
Summer for the City aims to build on Restart Stages last year, when the center hosted small-scale performances outdoors, to help get artists back to work after months of pandemic cancellations. According to Lincoln Center, that series attracted more than 200,000 people, nearly a quarter of whom were first-time visitors.
The disco ball is the centerpiece of the Oasis, an outdoor stage designed by costume and set designer Clint Ramos, that will host live music and dance parties throughout the summer.
In June, Jazz at Lincoln Center, embracing a New Orleans tradition, will lead a second-line processional from Columbus Circle to Lincoln Center, to mourn those who have died since the pandemic started. And in July, the center will host “Celebrate LOVE: A (Re) Wedding,” as a ceremony for couples who canceled or scaled back nuptials in the past two years, with live music and a reception on the dance floor.
The arts, Thake said, “speak to all of the deep trauma that we’ve all collectively been through and also bring so much of the joy and revitalization that the city needs.”