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New York City Opera Presents 'Looking Forward'; Celebration of 20th Century Music

In anticipation of the beginning of Gerard Mortier's tenure as General Manager and Artistic Director in 2009-10, New York City Opera will present Looking Forward, a celebration of twentieth-century music, as part of a unique series of concerts and events planned for 2008-09.

New York City Opera will bring Looking Forward to venues in all five boroughs of New York City while its home, the New York State Theater, undergoes an historic renovation.  These citywide performances launch City Opera's new initiative to perform in venues throughout the city in the future, in addition to giving performances at its home at Lincoln Center.

Developed by City Opera's Music Director George Manahan, Looking Forward will survey the musical language of the twentieth century, focusing on many of the composers who will be featured in Gerard Mortier's inaugural season.  Maestro Manahan observed, "It will be a terrific opportunity for audiences to rediscover the beauty and richness of the unique styles and harmonies of this important era in music history."

Highlights of Looking Forward include excerpts from Benjamin Britten's Les Illuminations with tenor soloist Brian Anderson (November 2, 16, March 7, April 11) and soprano Lielle Berman (October 4); Olivier Messiaen's Trois petites liturgies de la Présence Divine with pianist Aleck Karis, ondes Martenot soloist Jean Laurendeau and the New York City Opera Women's Chorus; Lukas Foss's Time Cycle sung by sopranos Jennifer Zetlan (October 4, November 2, March 7, April 11) and Lielle Berman (November 16); and Claude Debussy's Danse sacrée et danse profane featuring harpist Jessica Zhou.  The program, performed by the New York City Opera Orchestra, will also include Igor Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite, Edgard Varèse's Intégrales, and Steve Reich's Clapping Music.

Performances will take place at St. George Theatre in Staten Island, Whitman Theater at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Queens, and Alice Tully Hall in Manhattan.

Looking Forward is made possible with the leadership support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation.  Additional support provided by the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

City Opera Music Director George Manahan made his company debut conducting Die tote Stadt in 1991 and was appointed Music Director of City Opera in 1998. In his tenure at City Opera, he has conducted 53 different operas, including two world premieres, four U.S. stage premieres and 41 new productions including, but not limited, to: Margaret Garner, Cavalleria rusticana, Pagliacci, Cendrillon, Falstaff, L'elisir d'amore, La donna del lago, Capriccio, Il viaggio a Reims, The Mines of Sulphur, Lysistrata, Il trittico, Little Women, Flavio, The Flying Dutchman, Xerxes, Intermezzo, The Cunning Little Vixen, Emmeline, Macbeth, La finta giardiniera, Mourning Becomes Electra, and Ermione, as well as Lizzie Borden, La bohème, and Madama Butterfly ("Live from Lincoln Center" telecasts). Elsewhere, he has conducted Rigoletto, Falstaff, and L' italiana in Algeri at Glimmerglass Opera; premieres including Modern Painters and A Night at the Chinese Opera at Santa Fe Opera; productions at Seattle Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opera Australia, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; concerts with San Francisco Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, National Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, and Verona Filarmonica. Recordings include Desire Under the Elms with London Symphony Orchestra (Grammy nomination). In June 2008 New York City Opera General Manager-Designate Gerard Mortier announced the renewal of Maestro George Manahan's contract as Music Director of the New York City Opera through 2012.

Soprano Jennifer Zetlan made her City Opera debut in 2007 as Frasquita in Carmen.  Her career highlights include War and Peace at the Metropolitan Opera; Emily Webb in Our Town (Rorem) and Tytania in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Juilliard Opera Center; Lisa in La sonnambula with Florida Grand Opera; Emily Webb in Our Town and the Vixen in The Cunning Little Vixen with the Aspen Music Festival; and a recital on the Artist Series of Sarasota.

Soprano Lielle Berman made her City Opera debut in 2007 as Noémie in Cendrillon and Cunegonde in Candide.  Her career highlights include Tytania in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Cunegonde in Candide with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano; Despina in Così fan tutte with Indianapolis Opera; Peter Grimes with the Opéra National de Paris, and concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Festival de Musique de St. Barth, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

Tenor Brian Anderson made his City Opera debut as Belfiore in La finta giardiniera in 2003.  His career highlights include Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni at City Opera; Belfiore in La finta giardiniera, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Johnny Inkslinger in Paul Bunyan, Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Tybalt in Roméo et Juliette with Florida Grand Opera; The Elixir of Love at California's Sonoma City Opera; L'italiana in Algeri  with Palm Beach Opera; Roderigo in Otello, Remendado in Carmen, Second Priest in Die Zauberflöte, Offizier in Ariadne auf Naxos, Borsa in Rigoletto, Eisslinger in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Il Capitano in Simon Boccanegra with San Francisco Opera, and appearances with Dallas Opera, Opera Omaha, and Glimmerglass Opera.

Jessica Zhou, born in Beijing, has been Principal Harpist of the New York City Opera Orchestra since 2004. She has been a featured soloist with the Israel Philharmonic, Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra in San Diego, Montgomery Symphony Orchestra and Geneva Chamber Orchestra. Other orchestral credits include performances with the New York Philharmonic, Swiss Romande Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Moscow Chamber Orchestra, and a tour of Japan with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Jean Laurendeau, born in Montréal, is an ondes Martenot soloist who has appeared as guest artist with major North American orchestras including the Montréal and Boston symphonies and the New York and Philadelphia orchestras, and European orchestras such as the Concertgebouw, the Orchestre National de France, and the NRO of Hamburg.  Mr. Laurendeau played in the North American première of Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise at the San Francisco Opera.  He premiered the Concerto pour ondes Martenot by Jacques Hétu in Paris with the Orchestre National de France broadcast in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada, and performed the North American première with the Montréal Symphony.

Pianist Aleck Karis is one of the leading pianists on the New York contemporary music scene. He has performed concertos by composers from Mozart to Birtwistle with New York's Y Chamber Symphony, St. Luke's Chamber Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony and the Erie Symphony; and has been featured at leading international festivals including those of Bath, Geneva, São Paulo, Los Angeles, and Miami, and Caramoor, as well as the New York Philharmonic's Horizons Festival and the Warsaw Autumn Festival.

Since its founding in 1943, New York City Opera has been recognized as one of America's preeminent cultural institutions, celebrated for its adventurous programming and innovative, risk-taking production style.  The company's wide-ranging repertory of 269 works spans five centuries of music and includes 29 world premieres and 61 American and/or New York premieres of such notable works as Béla Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle, Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shostakovich's Katerina Ismailova, Ferruccio Busoni's Doktor Faust, Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges and The Flaming Angel, Zimmermann's Die Soldaten, Arnold Schoenberg's Moses und Aron, and Philip Glass's Akhnaten.  The company has been a leading showcase for young artists, having helped launch the careers of more than 3,000 singers including José Carreras, Phyllis Curtin, David Daniels, Plácido Domingo, Lauren Flanigan, Renée Fleming, Elizabeth Futral, Jerry Hadley, Catherine Malfitano, Bejun Mehta, Sherrill Milnes, Samuel Ramey, Gianna Rolandi, Beverly Sills, Norman Treigle, Tatiana Troyanos, and Carol Vaness.

In its 2009-10 season New York City Opera will continue a long and proud tradition of presenting innovative repertoire by programming a full season of both 20th-century works and world premieres both American and international.  During the 1960s, aided by generous grants from the Ford Foundation, then-General Director Julius Rudel programmed two such seasons:  Spring 1965 featured the world premiere of Jack Beeson's Lizzie Borden; the New York premieres of Dmitri Shostakovich's Katerina Ismailova and the German-language version of Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera; the company premieres of Puccini's Il trittico and Gian Carlo Menotti's The Saint of Bleecker Street; revivals of City Opera's New York premiere productions of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, and Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe, and revivals of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess and a double bill of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and Carl Orff's Carmina burana.  In Spring 1966, City Opera's inaugural season at Lincoln Center, the company presented the North American premiere of Alberto Ginastera's Don Rodrigo, the New York stage premieres of Francis Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites and Gottfried von Einem's Danton's Death, and revivals of Weill's Street Scene, Richard Strauss's Capriccio, Menotti's The Consul, and Sergei Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges, as well as Katerina Ismailova, The Ballad of Baby Doe, and Oedipus Rex/Carmina burana.

Gerard Mortier, currently Director of the Opéra National de Paris, will become City Opera's eighth General Manager and Artistic Director in 2009-2010.  Renowned for his ground-breaking tenures at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, the Ruhr Triennial Festival, and the Salzburg Festival, Gerard Mortier will lead City Opera boldly into a new era of artistic achieve­ment and distinction.  Building on the company's core mission of artistic excellence and accessibility, his plans include broadening the company's geographic reach through performances in venues across New York City, and a launch of major new education and outreach programs designed to ensure that all New Yorkers have the opportunity to attend live performances of opera.

 New York City Opera and New York City Ballet have undertaken a $200 million capital campaign-the first such joint venture in the companies' histories-to enhance audience amenities and provide a state-of-the-art environment for productions at their shared home, the New York State Theater.  In July 2008 the Ballet and Opera announced their intention to rename the New York State Theater in honor of Mr. Koch's $100 million lead gift to the joint capital campaign.  The name change will take effect this fall 2008


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