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Kennedy Center Announces Revised 2021 Season Programming Featuring the D.C Premiere of BLUE and More

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National Tours Include FROZEN, THE BAND'S VISIT, DEAR EVAN HANSEN and More

Kennedy Center Announces Revised 2021 Season Programming Featuring the D.C Premiere of BLUE and More

In anticipation of reopening its doors and resuming mainstage performances, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announces the updated 2021 seasons of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) and Washington National Opera (WNO) along with the new seasons of theater, ballet and dance, and Performances for Young Audiences. The ambitious, but limited season will begin on January 14, 2021, contingent on entry into phase four of the District of Columbia's ReOpen D.C. guidelines. Programming will remain flexible and in accordance with any updates to Mayor Bowser's reopening guidelines.

"Over the past four months I've been struck by the heartening proof that we need artists and the arts now more than ever," said Deborah F. Rutter, President of the Kennedy Center. "The Center has chosen to move forward with optimism balanced by safety and constant re-evaluation as the effects of the pandemic continue to evolve. Even with a shortened season, the Kennedy Center strives to provide a broad range of world-class arts to the widest possible audience-in-person and digitally. Our supporters and patrons have given us strength during these unusual times; as the coming months unfold, we are exceedingly grateful for the patience, flexibility, and trust of our audiences."

Highlights of the 2021 season include: previously announced NSO subscription performances beginning with an exciting program, January 14 and 16, conducted by Dalia Stasevska, Principal Guest Conductor of London's BBC Symphony Orchestra; the rescheduled performances of WNO's highly anticipated production of Blue, Tony Award®-winning composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson's contemporary opera which was recently named "Best New Opera" of 2020 by the Music Critics Association of North America; a range of Broadway hits including a new 50th anniversary production of Jesus Christ Superstar; the original hip hop improv sensation Freestyle Love Supreme returns following its 2019 pre-Broadway Kennedy Center run; the Tony Award® winner for Best Revival of a Musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!; the Tony® and Grammy Award®-winning Best Musical, Dear Evan Hansen; Tony®-nominee Disney's Frozen; the Tony® and Grammy Award®-winning Best Musical Hadestown; and Tony® and Grammy Award®-winning Best Musical The Band's Visit; Beethoven at 250, the NSO's four-week festival of concerts celebrating the composer's 250th birthday and his remarkable contribution to music; Paul Taylor Dance Company's Celebration Tour honoring the impact of the company's iconic founder; the Kennedy Center debut of Monaco's renowned Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo; perennial favorites New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre with comedic classics in the ballet repertoire; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with a mix of exhilarating repertory programs; and Kennedy Center co-commission of the newest work from leading Bharatanatyam ensemble, Ragamala Dance Company; and a number of Kennedy Center commissions and co-commissions for performances for young audiences including In the MOment: A Drawing Dance, a new collaboration between Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence Mo Willems and Ephrat Asherie Dance.

Additionally, the 2021 seasons of Hip Hop, Comedy, Jazz, NSO Pops, and Renée Fleming's VOICES, will be announced at a later date. The previously announced Fortas series for 2021 will move forward as previously announced.

Also announced today is the Center's slate of 2020 fall programming, a range of both digital and new in-person events curated to take advantage of the Center's diverse indoor spaces and more than 130,000 square feet of outdoor green space allowing for physically distant programming. The new schedule also features some previously planned performances relocated into larger venues. The Kennedy Center continues to work in consultation with health and safety experts including consultation with medical experts from George Washington University, the National Institutes of Health, United Health Care, and the Wharton School, national and local guidelines, and in accordance with the District of Columbia's ReOpen DC guidelines for its reopening plans. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve and as the Center and the nation learns more about best practices for reopening, we are committed to reviewing and updating our risk mitigation protocols on an ongoing basis. For the most up-to-date information regarding protocols both current and for spring of 2021, please check the Kennedy Center website for all measures to ensure patron safety during this time. These protocols are not an absolute protection against contracting COVID-19. Patrons assume their own risk by entering the facility.

For subscribers holding tickets to previously announced NSO and WNO performances, the ticket value has been placed on account and representatives from the Kennedy Center will be in contact with options for the newly scheduled dates. More information for subscribers can be found here.

Full schedule 2021 programming for the NSO, WNO, theater, ballet and dance, and performances for young audiences can be found below.

Please note all artists and performances are subject to change.


Celebrating its 90th season, the NSO's revised 2021 season, led by Music Director Gianandrea Noseda and Executive Director Gary Ginstling, and its fourth under the artistic leadership of Gianandrea Noseda, will showcase Beethoven and "Pivotal Moments, Powerful Voices," a series of new works by living composers demonstrating how music reflects broader social and historical relevance, in addition to previously announced subscription performances.

"Pivotal Moments, Powerful Voices" features world premiere commissions by Peter Boyer, Michael Daugherty, and Jessie Montgomery, and the D.C. premiere of a co-commissioned piece by Julia Wolfe-works in which composers have responded to pivotal moments and iconic figures in American history. In January 2021, the NSO performs a new work by acclaimed composer Jessie Montgomery celebrating the 90th birthday of Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, who was the born the same year of the NSO's founding. In March 2021, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe honors the trailblazing suffragette women who fought for the 19th Amendment in Her Story, a large-scale work for orchestra and the all-female vocal group, Lorelei Ensemble. The NSO co-commissioned Her Story along with the Boston, Chicago, Nashville, and San Francisco symphonies, and these performances will be led by Music Director Gianandrea Noseda. Also in March, the NSO performs the world premiere of Grammy Award®-winning composer Michael Daugherty's Blue Electra, a concerto for violin and orchestra written for Anne Akiko Meyers, who is the featured soloist in these NSO performances. Part of an all-American program, this work was inspired by pioneering pilot Amelia Earhart and her detailed and often poetic aviation records. Finally, in May 2021 the NSO performs the world premiere commission of Peter Boyer's Balance of Power, written to honor the 95th birthday of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The NSO's season concludes with a four week Beethoven at 250 Festival in celebration of the composer's 250th birthday. Originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 season and postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this festival marks the Orchestra and Noseda's first Beethoven Symphony Cycle together. All nine Beethoven symphonies will be recorded for later release.

All previously announced NSO subscription performances from January 14-May 15 are proceeding with the following updates:

  • January 22-24: Hilary Hahn plays Prokofiev
    Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmila Overture will replace Kilar's Krzesany
    Stravinsky's The Firebird - Suite (1945) will replace Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring
  • February 18-20: Gianandrea Noseda & Emanuel Ax
    Wagner's Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey (from Götterdämmerung) will no longer be part of the program
  • April 15-17: Benjamin Grosvenor plays Mozart / Sir Mark Elder conducts Elgar
    Elgar's Enigma Variations will replace Elgar's Symphony No. 2
  • Kennedy Center Chamber Players March 7 concert has been moved to February 21

The 2021 updated NSO Schedule, in addition to previously announced programming:




January 14-June 12, 2021

Concert Hall

For all previously announced and revised NSO subscription programming, please see here.


Given the unique challenges of mounting full-scale opera productions during the pandemic, the WNO, led by Artistic Director Francesca Zambello and General Director Timothy O'Leary, plans a season, beginning fall 2020, to include an innovative mix of virtual performances and small-scale live performances, culminating in May and July with two mainstage productions.

Offerings beginning this fall include exploring new ways of bringing opera to audiences in this changing and challenging landscape with the Come, Hope Project, the title of which is taken from Beethoven's Fidelio aria, "Komm, Hoffnung" (Come, Hope) and will engage audiences in summoning hope and examining and celebrating the human heart through song.

In May 2021 Puccini's beloved classic, La Bohème, led by Principal Conductor Evan Rogister and starring soprano Angel Blue is performed in the Opera House stage. Widely considered one of the most popular operas in the repertoire, the story of Bohemian artists in Paris tangled up in love's highs and lows will feature grand sets evoking the City of Love. In July, Tony Award®-winning composer Jeanine Tesori and NAACP Theatre Award-winning librettist Tazewell Thompson's new contemporary opera, Blue, makes its long-awaited D.C. premiere after being postponed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently named the "Best New Opera" of 2020 by the Music Critics Association of North America, Blue is a co-production with The Glimmerglass Festival and the Lyric Opera of Chicago that explores love, loss, family, and community in the wake of racially motivated police violence. In advance of Blue's performances, WNO will create a full audio recording this fall and plans to work with noted Black documentary filmmaker Sam Pollard to create a short documentary about the writing of the opera and the recording process to be released before Blue's performances in July. Committed to fostering conversations that enable understanding and action, WNO's "Let's Go There" series, which uses opera as a prism to examine and candidly discuss issues central to contemporary culture, will include virtual community events this season connected to Blue. Dates and information to be announced.

The 2021 updated WNO Schedule:




Fall 2020


Come, Hope Project

May 8-22, 2021

Opera House

La Boheme

July 3-11, 2021

Eisenhower Theater



The 2021 season of theater will host some of Broadway's biggest hits and revivals. The season begins in May with a new 50th anniversary production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's and Tim Rice's groundbreaking rock opera and winner of the Olivier Award for Best Revival, Jesus Christ Superstar. The original hip hop improv sensation created by Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Anthony Veneziale, Freestyle Love Supreme, also part of Comedy at the Kennedy Center season, comes to the Eisenhower Theater where suggestions from the audience are spun into instantaneous riffs and full-length musical numbers with no two shows alike as it is created live nightly bringing much joy and laughter as it is performed. The acclaimed and sold-out hit on Broadway is also the subject of the recently released We Are Freestyle Love Supreme documentary on Hulu that has earned rave reviews at Sundance. The Tony Award® winner for Best Revival of a Musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! comes to the Eisenhower stage with director Daniel Fish's re-orchestrated and reimagined production for the 21st century as you've never seen or heard before.

The summer continues with the Tony® and Grammy Award®-winning Best Musical, Dear Evan Hansen, as it returns to D.C. from where it first premiered; the critically acclaimed Tony® and Grammy Award®-winning musical The Band's Visit, a joyously offbeat story, set in a remote town where a band of musicians arrive lost, out of the blue. Under the spell of the desert sky, and with beautiful music perfuming the air, the band brings the town to life in unexpected and tantalizing ways; and Disney's smash megahit Frozen featuring the wildly popular songs from the original film plus an expanded score with a dozen new musical numbers from the film's Oscar-winning songwriters. The Tony® and Grammy Award®-winning Best Musical Hadestown, by celebrated singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and innovative director Rachel Chavkin, concludes the season with a love story for today intertwining two mythic tales-that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and King Hades and his wife Persephone. In addition, Shear Madness, the interactive comedy whodunit that lets the audience solve the crime, will recommence in January 2021 in the Theater Lab.

The Center's acclaimed Broadway Center Stage series will continue in 2021. Productions and dates to be announced.

The 2021 Kennedy Center Theater Schedule:

Performance Dates



May 25-June 13, 2021

Opera House

Jesus Christ Superstar

June 8-13, 2021

Eisenhower Theater

Freestyle Love Supreme

June 22-27, 2021

Eisenhower Theater

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!

June 29-July 18, 2021

Opera House

Dear Evan Hansen

July 28-August 8, 2021

Eisenhower Theater

The Band's Visit

July 21-September 5, 2021

Opera House

Disney's Frozen

August 10-September 5, 2021

Eisenhower Theater


Recommences January 2021

Theater Lab

Shear Madness


The 2021 ballet and dance season includes opportunities to see storied companies in innovative contemporary works alongside signature classics. Highlights include perennial favorites like New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre with comedic classics in the ballet repertoire and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with a mix of exhilarating repertory programs and a celebration of 60 years of Alvin Ailey's masterpiece Revelations. Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo makes its Kennedy Center debut with Choreographer-Director Jean-Christophe Maillot's reimagined and visually striking adaption of the well-known fairy-tale, Cendrillon (Cinderella). In addition, in a Kennedy Center co-commission, leading Bharatanatyam ensemble, Ragamala Dance Company brings its newest work, Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy's Fires of Varanasi. The choreographers create a ritual for the stage inspired by the cosmic trinity of Varanasi-sacred pilgrimage routes, The Ganges River, and the patron deity Shiva-and imagines a metaphorical crossing, where one may leave the mundane and enter into the world of transcendence. The Kennedy Center continues to highlight the impact of pioneers in the modern dance field with The Celebration Tour of Paul Taylor Dance Company, featuring six masterworks choreographed by and honoring the impact of the company's iconic founder.

The annual Local Dance Commissioning Project, which supports and fosters new dance works by local artists, celebrates its 20th anniversary with works by this year's recipients, Britta Joy Peterson and Quynn Johnson. Britta Joy Peterson's Frequencies is an audience-focused performance highlighting the relationship between dance and music, light and space, individual and community, and intimacy and grandeur. Unsung Sole, with choreography by Quynn Johnson, is a percussive performance piece focused on the legacy of African American female tap dancers, spotlighting their contributions (many unknown) to tap dance during the 1920s through 1960s. Dates and locations to be announced at a later date.

Further details for the annual National Dance Day on Saturday, September 19, 2020 will be announced at a later date. Celebrations will include virtual opportunities to take dance classes in a variety of styles.

The 2021 Kennedy Center Ballet and Dance Season Schedule:

Performance Dates



February 2-7, 2021

Opera House

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Repertory Programs

February 24-27, 2021

Eisenhower Theater

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo,

Cendrillon (Cinderella)

March 23-28, 2021

Opera House

New York City Ballet,

A Midsummer Night's Dream, with choreography by NYCB co-founder George Balanchine

April 20-21, 2021

Eisenhower Theater

Ragamala Dance Company, Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy's Fires of Varanasi

April 21-25, 2021

Opera House

American Ballet Theatre,

Don Quixote

May 20-22, 2021

Eisenhower Theater

Paul Taylor Dance Company, The Celebration Tour: Two Repertory Programs


The 2021 season of Performances for Young Audiences is designed to inspire and engage audiences both young and young at heart and includes three Kennedy Center commissions and co-commissions, a National Symphony Orchestra commission, and a Kennedy Center/NSO co-commission. Using its signature style of shadow puppetry and interactive multimedia, Emmy Award®-winning company Manual Cinema tells Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence Mo Willems's tale of a not-so scary monster in the world premiere Kennedy Center commission of Leonardo and Sam: The Terrible Monster and the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World, Respectively. In A Wind in the Door, playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger and director Nicole A. Watson bring the sequel to Madeline L'Engle's beloved book A Wrinkle in Time to the stage for the first time. In this world premiere Kennedy Center commission, the thrilling sci-fi story reveals that love and kindness are the best antidotes to evil. Austin-based Glass Half Full Theatre presents its award-winning "story within a story" using puppetry, Spanish, and English and tackles cultural heritage, family, and the power of language in Cenicienta: A Bilingual Cinderella Story.

Inspired by the artwork and abstractions of Mo Willems, Ephrat Asherie Dance collaborates with Willems to create another Kennedy Center co-commission, In the MOment: A Drawing Dance, a show about making art out of small things. After a sold-out performance at the REACH opening family day, Story Pirates return in their imaginative production where actors, comedians, improvisers, and musicians take original stories from real kids around the country and turn them into a wildly funny comedy performance.

Music offerings for young audiences include a performance by Baltimore-born and D.C.-raised, Grammy®-nominated singer Maimouna Youssef, who blends gospel, jazz, soul, and hip hop for an awe-inspiring musical experience; and NSO Family Concerts: Sleepover at the Museum, a musical and scientific scavenger hunt concert based on the book of the same name by Karen LeFrak; Super Cello!, a program uniting Scottie Rowell of Atlanta's Teller Productions and NSO cellist David Teie in a story using puppets, props, and music to help super musicians save the day in this world premiere Kennedy Center and NSO commission; Because, a collaboration and NSO world premiere commission between Mo Willems, animator and illustrator Amber Ren, and acclaimed composer, violinist, and Jessie Montgomery, recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, about how chance, discovery, and persistence changed the life of a young girl. In addition, enjoy music across all genres on select Saturdays at 11 a.m. at the REACH with Howard University's premier vocal jazz ensemble, Afro Blue (February 20); Falu, who is known for her "Indie Hindi" sound-blending traditions of Indian classical and folk music with western rock, and electronic styles to create songs that explore themes of womanhood, romance, longing, and loss (April 10); and two-time Grammy Award® nominee and Smithsonian Folkways artist ELIZABETH MITCHELL and her band for gentle, homespun music for children and families (May 15).

To provide the utmost safety, flexibility, and best experience for Kennedy Center families as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, performances will include reduced audience capacity in the Family Theater to ensure physical distancing with general admission seating for Leonardo and Sam specifically. Throughout the season Kennedy Center ushers and theater management will help guide patrons in selecting their seating to sit with family members or members of their party. In addition, show times have been adjusted to allow for thorough deep cleaning and sanitization between performances.

The 2021 Kennedy Center Performances for Young Audiences Schedule:

Performance Dates



January 28, 2021

Family Theater

Music for Young Audiences:

Maimouna Youssef:

An Acoustic Experience

February 4-21, 2021

Family Theater

Leonardo and Sam: The

Terrible Monster and the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World, Respectively

February 20, 2021

Justice Forum, REACH

Afro Blue

February 28, 2021

Concert Hall

NSO Family: Sleepover at the Museum

March 4-21, 2021

Family Theater

A Wind in the Door

March 27-28, 2021

Family Theater

NSO Music for Young Audiences: Super Cello!

April 9-11, 2021

Family Theater

Cenicienta: A Bilingual Cinderella Story

April 10, 2021

Justice Forum, REACH


May 2, 2021

Concert Hall

NSO Family: Because

May 6-23, 2021

Family Theater

In the MOment: A Drawing Dance

May 15, 2021

Justice Forum, REACH


June 1-6, 2021

Family Theater

Story Pirates

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