Held from June 4–26, the 2016 annual Princeton Festival brings together a fusion of both entertainment and education as it continues to nurture its traditional celebration of the arts, just as it has for over a decade. The annual festivals are celebrations of the performing arts, seeking to fill the gap between spring and fall performing arts seasons.
A year in the making, the Princeton Festival Committee has decided to bring a series of theatrical and musical performances to life on stages all around town. Artistic director Dr. Richard Tang Yuk, who has been involved with the Festival since 2004, was particularly instrumental in bringing a wide range of artistic talent to the event, including local organizations. “It’s really the artistic director who sets the tone and proposes the ideas,” said author of Princeton Festival website Debbie Modzelewski. “We have so many different opinions and we really rely on him to bring it all together.”
Under Yuk’s supervision, the Princeton Festival ties in a variety of performing arts. Having previously aired operas such as 2014’s Tony award winning Porgy and Bess, the Princeton Festival is set to continue with this year’s most anticipated event: Peter Grimes. Composed by late English composer Benjamin Britten, the opera will be conducted by Yuk, and the action will be directed by Steven LaCosse. LaCosse is also Principal Stage Director at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. With a wide repertory of over 60 productions, his most recent ones include The Flying Dutchman and Porgy and Bess for The Princeton Festival, Carmen and The Flying Dutchman for Piedmont Opera, The Sound of Music and The King and I for Opera Theatre of the Rockies, and The Tales of Hoffmann and Mozart’s La finta giardiniera for the Fletcher Institute.
Peter Grimes, which will be showcased on June 23 and 26 at the McCarter Theatre Centre, brings together the talents of actors and musicians in order to showcase the tragic tale of a closely-knit community developing herd mentality in response to the death of a young apprentice. “It has a tone unlike anything we’ve worked with before,” said Princeton Festival staff member, Nicole Benvenuti. “It’s much darker themed, especially compared to last year’s Le Nozze di Figaro.” Tickets for the show are $30 and can be purchased through www.princetonfestival.org or the McCarter Theatre Box Office at 609-258-28787.
Not only does the festival offer variety, but it features opportunities previously unavailable in the Princeton area, including a vocal jazz performance by Grammy-winning artist Cécile McLorin Salvant. “All of [the performances] are fun,” Benvenuti said. “But I’m most excited to to see [Cécile] in person.” Another new event this season is the oratorio and silent film Voices of Light/ The Passion of Joan of Arc. This showing combines a critically acclaimed silent film by Carl Theodor Dreyer with a musical oratorio by Jussi award-winning composer Richard Einhorn.
In each of the prior years, the repertoire has consisted of a vocal jazz performance, a silent film, a chamber orchestra performance, a musical theatre production, an opera, and a choral concert. Although this year’s performances are set to fit into a pattern typical of previous years, it is still marked by a brand of creativity. “We always try to push the boundaries a little each year so that it increases people’s exposure to different genres and different styles,” Modzelewski said. Most performances require a relatively small fee for tickets, but students can receive discounts for many events. For more information, http://princetonfestival.org/event_cat/2016-performances/ contains information about logistics of performances.
Along with the series of performances centering around the arts, the Festival will be augmented by free lectures, previews, workshops, and a master class on conducting. The free lectures will each center around one performance event, and will provide an opportunity for people to meet the cast members behind and learn about the backgrounds of the productions. Ultimately, the festival provides an opportunity for guests to see a diverse range of entertainment.