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NYC Opera brings touring show to LIC

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The New York City Opera’s “Looking Forward” series is traveling citywide. Having already hit Staten Island and Brooklyn, their next stop will be the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Queens on March 7th.

The series exposes the musical language of the twentieth century with excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s “Les Illuminations,” Olivier Messiaen’s “Trois Petites Liturgies de la PrÉsence Divine,” Lukas Foss’ “Time Cycle,” Claude Debussy’s “Danse SacrÉe et Danse Profane,” Igor Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella Suite” and Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music.”

The idea was hatched by the music director of the New York City Opera, conductor George Manahan, who sees the series as an opportunity for audiences to rediscover the beauty and richness of the styles and harmonies of this important era in music history. Manahan purposely picked these music excerpts to show the infinite variety of styles of harmonic language.

“One of the great traditions of NYCO has been its commitment to new music. And in this, I’ve chosen 20th century music,” Manahan said.

“Looking Back” is a nostalgic look back, based upon composers of the 20th century up to the present. Choosing composers for the series was easy for Manahan, who simply referenced his own personal collection of music, selecting a few of his favorites.

“I purposely picked them to show the infinite variety of styles of harmonic language,” said Manahan, who narrates the 90−minute program in addition to conducting it. One of the composers chosen happens to be a particular favorite of Manahan’s: the American composer, conductor and pianist Lukas Foss, who died Feb. 1 after suffering a heart attack in his New York City apartment.

Many of the pieces the NYCO performs in “Looking Back” are excerpts. Manahan believes that using excerpts creates more of a musical turnover, and therefore shows different styles and contrasts in the music.

Among others, “Looking Forward” features NYCO soprano soloist Jennifer Zetlan, who performs two songs from Foss’ “Time Cycle.”

“It’s great to take music that is normally not done all over the place and carry it out to all the boroughs,” Zetlan said.

Zetlan, a Delaware native who made her debut with NYCO in fall of 2007, is one of three soloists in the series. She joins tenor soloist Brian Anderson and ondes Martenot player Jean Laurendeau. Other performers include pianist Aleck Karis, the New York City Opera Women’s Chorus and harpist June Han.

“I adore working with George. I think he is so musical. I love working on this particular music with him because he’s so passionate and not so many people are,” Zetlan said of Manahan, who made his NYCO debut in 1991. “Its such a pleasure to sing this 20th century, off−the−beaten−path music.”

The series aims to keep operagoers satiated while the NYCO’s home, the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, undergoes renovation through the fall.

“Because of the audience and the subscribers who came from Queens, this year we decided to bring the music to them,” Manahan said.

Previous performances took place at St. George Theatre in Staten Island and the Whitman Theater at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts. Following the March 7 concert at LPAC, the show will travel on to Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in Manhattan on April 11.

In regard to the borough−bouncing, Manahan said it is very satisfying to go to these other theaters, adding, “Its been successful. I’d love to see it continue.”

If You Go

Looking Forward

When: March 7, 8 p.m.

Where: LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, 31−10 Thompson Avenue, Long Island City

Cost: $20

Contact: 718−482−5151 or www.lagcc.cuny.edu⁄lpac

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