The Newest of the New: on the New York Festival of Song Next series

February 19, 2015 12:08 AM

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The Newest of the New: on the New York Festival of Song Next series

The New York Festival of Song has always made a point of exploring the contemporary vocal repertory, but five years ago its directors—the pianists Steven Blier and Michael Barrett—decided to raise the new-music quotient by starting NYFOS Next, a series within the organization’s season that would look at this repertory more aggressively. This year, Mr. Blier and Mr. Barrett did some tweaking: Instead of spreading the Next concerts through the year, they reconfigured them as a mini-festival, with concerts on the first three Tuesdays in February, at Opera America’s National Opera Center. They shifted the focus, too: Though songs were plentiful, the real drawing cards were excerpts from new operas and theater works by Adam Guettel, Paul Moravec, Bright Sheng and others, with Mr. Moravec overseeing the second program and Mr. Sheng the third.

Contemporary opera has long been a fraught topic. For composers, commissions can be lucrative, and the temptation to work in the grandest form of classical composition, with all the spectacle and virtuosity that attends it, is tough to resist. But talk to a composer just after a premiere, and you’ll...

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