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Kennedy Center announces rappers Nas, K’naan to headline hip-hop festival
Hip-hop artists including rappers Nas and Somalia-born K’naan will take center stage in an unexpected place next year, highlighting their generation and art form alongside opera, ballet and theater at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The center, a memorial to President John F. Kennedy, announced Tuesday that its 2013-2014 season would include the weeklong festival “One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide.” It also plans to feature an international theater festival with works from at least 10 different nations and new American works commissioned in theater, opera and music.
The 2014 hip-hop festival will open with Nas rapping with musicians from the National Symphony Orchestra on music from his classic debut album “Illmatic.” The festival will also feature Puerto Rican musicians Calle 13 and a graffiti exhibition.
The mix of rap, DJing and graffiti with more traditional arts at one of the nation’s busiest performing arts centers will make the year unique, Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser said.
“Hip-hop is clearly something new and different for us,” Mr. Kaiser said, noting the center had also created festivals around country music and gospel, which are also less familiar in its concert halls. “I think to do something very current is important. We’re trying to speak to many different audiences.”
The season will include more than 2,000 performances in a wide array of theater, music and dance. It includes the center’s first international festival devoted to theater, featuring companies from Chile, China, Israel, Kuwait and the United Kingdom, among other places.
Separately, the Kennedy Center will host the Bolshoi ballet, which is especially notable because of recent scandal in the famed Russian dance company. In January, an assailant threw acid in the face of the company’s artistic director, possibly in retaliation for his selection of certain dancers over others for coveted roles. Police in Moscow announced Tuesday that three suspects, including star dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko, have been detained.
In musical theater, the Kennedy Center is developing a new production of Henry Krieger and Bill Russell’s “Side Show,” with La Jolla Playhouse – the first major revival since the musical’s original 1997 run on Broadway. Oscar-winning director Bill Condon, who recently directed both parts of the “Twilight” series’ “Breaking Dawn,” is directing the show.
Opera star Renee Fleming will lead a three-day festival of “American Voices,” examining the different ways Americans sing, from country to jazz and gospel to pop.
The Washington National Opera’s season at the Kennedy Center will underscore its vision to embrace American and nontraditional productions. It includes a new holiday opera for families entitled “The Lion, the Unicorn and Me,” with a score by musical theater composer Jeanine Tesori. It will tell the Christmas story from the perspective of the donkey. The season also will include the East Coast premiere of “Moby-Dick,” Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde,” and new productions of Verdi’s “The Force of Destiny” and Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”
Mr. Kaiser said the season endeavors to make opera “more accessible to some audiences and … more up-to-date for audiences – but also putting a focus and an emphasis on the American achievement in the opera field.”
In the year ahead, the National Symphony Orchestra will host a two-week festival combining new musical works with newly commissioned choreography in “New Moves: Symphony + Dance.” The orchestra also will offer an homage to George Washington in a new co-commission and a performance of “Der Rosenkavalier” featuring Miss Fleming as a tribute to Richard Strauss’ 150th birthday.
This is the last full programming slate Mr. Kaiser will lead at the center before stepping down at the end of 2014.
“For me, it was a very personal season,” Mr. Kaiser said, as he prepares to help hand off leadership to a new president. “Every decade or so, an institution like this needs a fresh artistic voice.”
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