Sellars crowns Hope fest for Vienne

Adams, Ramanujan, Saariaho among commissioned works

VIENNA — New Crowned Hope, an international arts festival helmed by theater and opera director Peter Sellars, was launched at a press conference Nov. 25 held in an 18th-century brewery in one of Vienna’s outlying districts. Inaugural event will run Nov. 14-Dec. 12, 2006, with performances and installations taking place throughout the city.

Co-sponsored by two Viennese festivals — Wien Mozart 2006 and the prestigious annual Wiener Festwochen — NCH takes its name from the Masonic lodge of which Mozart was a member at the time of his death in 1791. Fest will provide a welcome break from a year of nonstop Mozart perfs celebrating the 250th birthday of Austria’s favorite son, “a festival within a festival,” as Sellars describes it.

The festival will consist solely of works commissioned for NCH in the areas of music, music theater, film, dance, visual arts and architecture. Transformation, reconciliation and remembrance — central themes of Mozart’s final works — provide the inspiration.

Sellars pronounced the festival “a global conversation on the deepest issues in Mozart’s life when he died in this city.”

NCH has a budget of E10 million ($11.8 million) supplied by the city of Vienna, with additional funding from corporate sponsors, as well as London’s Barbican Center and New York’s Lincoln Center, where the festival will tour in 2007 and 2009, respectively.

Debut edition will kick off with the world premiere of “A Flowering Tree,” an opera from American composer John Adams. The one-act work will feature a libretto in English by Indian poet, linguist and folklorist Krishnaswami Ramanujan, based on a 2,000-year-old fable.

Also in the inaugural lineup, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho is slated to deliver “La Passion de Simone,” an opera based on the life of French philosopher Simone Weil starring American diva Dawn Upshaw. Sellars directs both works.

In hopes of putting Vienna on the international cinema circuit, Simon Field, former artistic director of the Rotterdam Intl. Film Festival, has commissioned six features: “The Last Symphony of the Kurds” by Bahman Ghobadi (Kurdish Iran); “Requiem From Java” by Garin Nugroho (Indonesia); “Intimacy” by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand); “Hamaca Paraguay” by Paz Encina (Paraguay); “Daratt” by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Chad); and “Dark Circle” by Tsai Ming-Liang (Taiwan). After their bows, the films will play in repertory at the Austrian Film Museum.

Also preeming works will be choreographers Mark Morris (U.S.), Sophiline Cheam Shapiro (Cambodia) and Faustin Linyekula (Congo); Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov, New York jazz musician Maria Schneider and Afro-pop star Rokia Traore; Ethiopian anthropological artist Meskerem Assegued; and Samoa’s Lemi Ponifasio, a leader of the newly emerging Pacific Island avant-garde movement in theater and music.

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