Kennedy Center's 2011-12 season features music of Vienna, Prague, Budapest; new 'Pal Joey'

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The Kennedy Center's 2011-2012 season looks as packed as ever with activity in just about every genre.

Musically speaking, note a month-long festival celebrating the music of three great European cities: Budapest, Prague, and Vienna.

In addition to the National Symphony Orchestra's programs with music director Christoph Eschenbach (Dvorak's "Stabat Mater," concert versions of "Fidelio" and "Bluebeard's Castle," etc.), there will be performances by the Vienna Philharmonic, Prague Philharmonia and more.


On the theater side, there will be a new Kennedy Center production of Rodgers and Hart's "Pal Joey" with a new book by Terrence McNally. That's bound to be quite an attention-getter. Same for the Sydney Theatre Company's production of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" starring Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving.

Touring productions playing at the center next season will include "Billy Elliot the Musical," "Memphis," "La Cage aux Folles," "The Addams Family" and "Les Misérables." Barbara Cook's Spotlight series of fresh vocal talent returns to the center for its fifth season; the incomparable singer will also be heard in concert.


Back to the NSO for a moment ...

Eschenbach, who will be heard as pianist in chamber music programs during the seasons (including a collaboration on Schubert's "Winterreise" with baritone Matthias Goerne), will spend a lot of time on Beethoven. In addition to "Fidelio," he'll offer five of the nine symphonies.

Big choral works dot the season, including Mendelssohn's "Elijah" conducted by Helmuth Rilling and Orff's "Carmina Burana" conducted by Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos. New works by Bill Banfield and Osvaldo Golijov are slated to be heard. Guest conductors include Lorin Maazel, Hannu Lintu, Herbert Blomstedt and former NSO music director Leonard Slatkin. The orchestra also welcomes new principal pops conductor Steven Reineke next season.

Fans of ballet and contemporary dance will find the American Ballet Theatre, Bolshoi Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Suzanne Farrell Ballet (celebrating its 10th anniversary as resident at the center),Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Mark Morris Dance Group, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Beijing Dance Theater, Jo Kanamori's Noism, and more.

Next season will see a new project called Look Both Ways: Street Arts Across America, a free series of events at the center and beyond celebrating contemporary visual arts, street musicians, circus performers and even flash mobs.

With funding from Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein -- another $10 million gift, six months after his first $10 million gift to the center -- the venue will expand its outreach efforts. The Rubenstein Arts Access Program aims to increase accessibility to young people and those "who have little or limited ability to attend and enjoy the performing arts."

The 2011-12 season also marks Washington National Opera's first year of the affiliation with the center. The opera lineup, previously announced, includes "Tosca," "Lucia di Lammermoor," "Così fan tutte," "Nabucco" and "Werther."

Jazz artists heading to the center next season include Ramsey Lewis, the Manhattan Transfer, Fountain of Youth Band, Django Reinhardt Festival All-Stars, and Jane Monheit.