Hailed as a “modern dance savior” by the New York Times, Ronald K. Brown returns to fuse the form, rhythm, and history of African dance with contemporary and urban dance styles.
In Mercy, a Kennedy Center co-commission (the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, Carolina Performing Arts, UNC Chapel Hill, and The Joyce Theater’s Stephen and Cathy Weinroth Fund for New York), Brown finds an ideal collaborator in visionary vocalist, composer, and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello. In their first collaboration, Brown’s choreography fuses with Ndegeocello’s music to focus on compassion—which leads one to have mercy. As Ndegeocello performs live, dancers embark on a physical journey toward justice that resolves in joy and surrender.
In the wildly popular Grace—originally choreographed in 1999 for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and now considered a masterpiece in the Ailey repertory—Brown sets his signature style to the music of Duke Ellington, Roy Davis Jr., Fela Kuti, Jimmy McPhail, and Jennifer Holliday.
The Equality of Night and Day is a new work by Brown examining balance, equity, and fairness for young people, women, and people of color in a world of exploitation, gentrification, racism, and xenophobia. Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran offers an original score set to spoken word by educator and activist Angela Davis.
Mercy, Grace, and The Equality of Night and Day
Ronald K. Brown; Meshell Ndegeocello
NSO Artistic Advisor Ben Folds returns to the Concert Hall as part of his In Actual Person Live For Real Tour! Folds’s penchant for pop is well established as part of Ben Folds Five and his enduring solo career, but he’s no typical rock star. His last album, So There, featured a blend of pop songs and his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra that soared to #1 on both the Billboard classical and classical crossover charts. Please note: The National Symphony Orchestra does not perform in this program.
2021 goes out with a bang with three masters of jazz! Five-time Grammy Award® winner Dianne Reeves is the pre-eminent jazz vocalist in the world today who displays her seemingly boundless collection of talents in every song. Winner of six Grammy® and three Latin Grammy Awards®, the Cuban pianist, composer, and arranger Chucho Valdés is today’s most influential figure in modern Afro-Cuban jazz. Grammy Award®-winning saxophone titan Joe Lovano, hailed by The New York Times as “one of the greatest musicians in jazz history,” is widely recognized as a prescient and pathfinding force across all genres of music. Stay after the performance for dancing, a countdown to 2022, and a balloon drop in the Grand Foyer—all included with your concert ticket. * tickets go on sale September 14th.
Take a musical journey through America’s rich past with the “beloved and irreplaceable” (Gramophone Magazine) Grammy Award®–winning mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and the “adventurous and superb” (The New Yorker) Music from Copland House ensemble. The centerpiece of the evening highlights a major collaboration between Grammy®-winning composer Richard Danielpour and author and former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove. Specifically written for the talents of Susan Graham and the ensemble, A Standing Witness is a robust song cycle that chronicles our history from the pivotal 1960s to today. A NOTE FROM ARTISTIC DIRECTOR JOSEPH KALICHSTEIN: Richard Danielpour’s fifteen songs, set to Pulitzer winner Rita Dove’s poetry, serve as a retrospective epic of America over the last half century. Harbison’s tongue-in-cheek yet masterful instrumental take on iconic Americana songs are a perfect antidote. And, a warm welcome to Susan Graham! Program: PIERRE JALBERT - Crossings; JOHN HARBISON - Selections from Songs America Loves to Sing; RICHARD DANIELPOUR - A Standing Witness (Kennedy Center Commission - Music Accord)
Our quartet-in-residence the Dover Quartet joins forces with pianist Haochen Zhang to launch the 2021-2022 Fortas season. “The young American string quartet of the moment” (New Yorker), the Dover has made waves in the chamber music field and returns to show off their distinct style. Rising pianist Haochen Zhang, a gold medal winner at the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2009, is “a musician of extraordinary technical mastery and perception” (New York Arts). NOTE FROM ARTISTIC DIRECTOR JOSEPH KALICHSTEIN I was greatly impressed when I first heard, years ago, Haochen Zhang, when I was on the Cliburn Competition Jury that awarded him a Gold Medal. He has since proven the Jury right! He is joining our beloved Dovers in a newly created Piano Quintet by Marc Neikrug, a brilliant and creative composer. A Movement by Schubert and Mendelssohn’s D major Quartet constitute the rest of this inspired program. Program: FRANZ SCHUBERT Quartettsatz, Quartet Movement in C minor, D 703; MARC NEIKRUG (Commission for Piano Quintet Kennedy Center Commission - Music Accord); FELIX MENDELSSOHN Quartet in D major, Op. 44, No. 1
Witness the new operatic collaboration between two of the most visionary and daring musical voices of our time: 11-time Grammy Award®-winning composer, saxophonist, and Kennedy Center Honoree Wayne Shorter, and four-time Grammy Award®-winning bassist, composer, and vocalist esperanza spalding. Classical and jazz collide in a full orchestral score blending time, taking us from ancient days to the modern era. Deeply poetic—then suddenly radical—Iphigenia uses the Euripedian myth to subvert the misogynistic and militaristic narratives imposed upon female characters in our most canonical stories. International master architect Frank Gehry will create set designs for this production directed by award-winning theater and opera director Lileana Blain-Cruz.
Your favorite holiday classics as you’ve never heard them! The Kennedy Center and NPR present A Jazz Piano Christmas, the annual sell-out event featuring today’s best jazz pianists performing the most loved seasonal music. This year, we spotlight four-time Grammy® nominee Gerald Clayton and virtuoso Eric Reed, who “can play anything from gospel to the most modern jazz, from New Orleans second-line to the hardest hard-bop.” (The Washington Post). More artists will be announced at a later date.
Arturo O’Farrill—leader of the “first family of Afro-Cuban Jazz” (New York Times)—brings his three-time Grammy®-winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to the Kennedy Center for a groundbreaking collaboration with preeminent philosopher, scholar, and civil rights activist Dr. Cornel West. Dr. West often famously remarks, “I’m a Bluesman in the life of the mind, and a jazzman in the world of ideas.” That spirit that carries through in this sonic exploration of arts, politics, progress, and how uncertainty and improvisation often come hand-in-hand with hope.
Winner of the 2016 Tony® for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his instantly legendary performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton, Leslie Odom, Jr. returns to showcase his remarkable versatility and talent. Leslie Odom, Jr. is a multifaceted, award-winning vocalist, songwriter, author, and actor. With a career that spans all performance genres, he has received recognition with Tony® and Grammy® Awards as well as Emmy® and, most recently, two Academy Award® nominations for his excellence and achievements in Broadway, television, film, and music. Odom currently stars and performs the songs of legendary singer Sam Cooke in the critically acclaimed Amazon film adaptation of the Olivier Award-nominated play One Night in Miami, directed by Regina King. Renée Fleming on this performance: “I am so thrilled that VOICES is welcoming back Leslie Odom, Jr. He has gone from success to success since his Tony Award-winning performance in the original cast of Hamilton. He was nominated for two Academy Awards for last year’s One Night in Miami—one for his sensitive portrayal of the legendary singer Sam Cooke, and another for writing the song “Speak Now” that was heard in the film. His vocal elegance bowled me over when he joined me for a duet on my Broadway album, and if I had to bet on the next EGOT winner, my money would be on Leslie—with a Grammy and a Tony, he’s halfway there already.”
Since his sensational debut at the Met in 2006, German tenor Jonas Kaufmann has numbered among the world’s top operatic stars. Hailed as “the world’s greatest tenor” by The Telegraph, Jonas Kaufmann has performed over 70 roles in the world’s leading opera houses. The New York Times has described him as having “clarion top notes, the blend of virility and tenderness in his singing,” and praised his “refined musicianship.” Renée Fleming on this performance: “Jonas Kaufmann is one of the great tenors of this or any other era. I was actually onstage with him for his US debut, when he played Cassio and I was Desdemona, in Otello at Lyric Opera of Chicago. He is a singer of all the gifts, with a warm, effulgent, tenorial sound that is even throughout a vast range, extraordinary charisma, and movie star good looks. His artistry is peerless in repertoire that ranges from Wagner to the most intimate song, and his performances cause the kind of frenzy not seen since the heyday of the Three Tenors. This will be the hottest ticket of the fall. To hear his voice with piano, in the crystalline acoustic of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, will be something to remember.”
Alan Cumming (Cabaret, The Good Wife) and Ari Shapiro (NPR’s All Things Considered, Pink Martini) both transport audiences to other worlds through their stories. Now, they’re joining forces in song! Witness the exclusive debut of their new evening of tunes and tall tales titled Och & Oy! A Considered Cabaret, with musical direction by Henry Koperski. Renée Fleming on this performance: Riding the crest of successes in theater, film, television, journalism, and music, this unexpected pairing of performers has so much going for it, I can’t wait to see this show. Famous for his Broadway, film, and television career, Olivier and Tony Award-winner Alan Cumming is perhaps best known for his Emmy-nominated performance in The Good Wife; but he’s a successful author and a seasoned cabaret performer to boot. Ari Shapiro’s speaking voice is a household presence as a host of NPR’s All Things Considered, as well as a news correspondent whose reporting has earned the Edward R. Murrow award. On top of that, he sings, most frequently as a guest with the marvelous Pink Martini. Alan and Ari’s show title Och & Oy! hints at a cultural complexity that can only add to this novel partnership.
New York Times best-selling author KWAME ALEXANDER brings two of his beloved children’s books—Acoustic Rooster and Indigo Blume—to the stage in a world premiere Kennedy Center commission. Alexander teams up with his writing partner MARY RAND HESS and long-time musical collaborator RANDY PRESTON to tell a story about being scared, being brave, and believing in yourself. With special guests like Duck Ellington and Ms. Dairy Parton—plus Preston appearing as Acoustic Rooster—this musical adaptation will have children (and families) dancing in their seats. Dive into a book to keep the fun going: Kwame’s NEW picture book of the same name is based on our musical! Most enjoyed by 5+ Sat., Dec. 11 at 11 a.m. is a sensory-friendly performance.
Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations is the electrifying new smash-hit Broadway musical that follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Nominated for 12 Tony Awards® and the winner of the 2019 Tony Award ® for Best Choreography, it’s a thrilling story of brotherhood, family, loyalty, and betrayal during a decade of civil unrest in America. Set to the beat of the group’s treasured hits, including “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Get Ready,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” Ain’t Too Proud tells the unforgettable story of the legendary quintet that Billboard Magazine named the greatest R&B group of all time. Recommended for ages 13 and up.