April 25, 2007
Announcing 2007-08 season, head of Lively Arts describes vision for innovative programming
By Kathleen J. Sullivan
When Jenny Bilfield, an avowed New Yorker, decided to take the helm at Stanford Lively Arts last year, one of the first people she called on the West Coast was friend and composer John Adams, whose music she had been publishing for more than a decade.
Adams told her that college campuses were responsible for some of the most interesting arts programming, Bilfield recalled last week during a campus press conference announcing the details of the Lively Arts 2007-08 season, her first as artistic and executive director.
"And so it was completely instinctive that John would be among the first creative artists I would turn to, to underscore that notion for Lively Arts," said Bilfield, former president of concert music publisher Boosey & Hawkes. "So, to start, it gives me great pleasure to tell you that Stanford Lively Arts will present the world premiere of Son of Chamber Symphony, written by one of our country's most courageous and most eloquent composers, John Adams."
Bilfield said the new symphony, which was commissioned for Lively Arts and co-commissioned with the San Francisco Ballet and Carnegie Hall, represents a new direction for the campus performing arts organization.
"My vision for Stanford Lively Arts is to be an incubator, curator and producer of the arts on a national and international level, with an emphasis on new work and engaging performance formats, and to work in partnership with the community that makes up the very pioneering Stanford environment," she said.
Speaking after the press conference, Adams, who celebrated his 60th birthday early this year, said arts programming at universities is not just interesting, but "provocative."
"The more traditional institutions are a little nervous about offending their funders," he said. "And college audiences are more up for being challenged."
Among Adams' recent works are A Flowering Tree, a 2006 opera based on an ancient South Indian folk tale about a beautiful girl who transforms herself into a tree to help support her impoverished family, and Doctor Atomic, a 2005 opera about Robert J. Oppenheimer, the leader of the group of American scientists who built the world's first nuclear weapon.
Adams, whose Chamber Symphony premiered in 1993, said he doesn't know much yet about Son of Chamber Symphony, which will be performed by Alarm Will Sound, a new ensemble known for its extreme virtuosity and brazen energy. He does know who will compose the dance steps for the San Francisco Ballet. "Mark Morris is going to choreograph it," he said.
The upcoming season will open Oct. 9 with another Lively Arts co-commissionthe West Coast premiere of Book of Longing, a concert composed for ensemble, singers, spoken word and imagery. The performance will feature the poetry of Leonard Cohen, who will appear on video, and the music of Philip Glass, who will perform on keyboards.
The season will end on April 26 with a performance by China's Jin Xing Dance Theatre, which is making its first American tour, and will appear with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and the Stanford Symphonic Chorus.
In between will be more than three dozen performances, ranging from the unsettling oratorio Still Life with Commentary, an unflinching look at the complexities and illusions of life during wartime by a jazz pianist and a hip-hop poet, to a concert by the Blind Boys of Alabama, Grammy Award-winning gospel singers known for their impassioned and uplifting performances.
Singer Dianne Reeves will perform. Director Spike Lee will speak. Noche Flamenca will dance, as will Robert Moses' Kin. Veteran actor Stacy Keach will lead the L.A. Theatre Works in a live radio-theater-style production of the docudrama Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers.
The season also will feature several performances by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Stanford's quartet-in-residence, which will be presenting a new work by Stanford faculty composer Jonathan Berger on April 6.
Subscriptions will go on sale June 19. Single tickets will go on sale Aug. 27. For a copy of the season brochure, which will be available in June, visit http://livelyarts.stanford.edu/ or call the Stanford Ticket Office at (650) 725-2787.