In 2022, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts introduced Summer for the City, which consolidated its summer festivals under one umbrella and marked the return to a kind of normalcy of live performances and public gatherings after more than two years of the pandemic. This year, Summer for the City returns for hundreds of events through August 12, with radically reimagined outdoor spaces to welcome visitors.
“We are blessed to be in the heart of the most diverse city in the world and to have 16 acres of outdoor space to celebrate the magic of this bustling global city,” Shanta Thake, Ehrenkranz Chief Artistic Officer of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, said. “This summer builds on a city reimagining itself—finding hope in community and planting seeds for the future.”
Those seeds include past festivals that for decades each summer attracted eager audiences: Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Midsummer Night Swing, Lincoln Center Festival, and Mostly Mozart Festival. The Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra (MMFO) will perform in both Damrosch Park and Geffen Hall, while dancing on the city’s largest outdoor dance floor in Josie Robertson Plaza, other outdoor performances, and local stage premieres nod to the other festivals’ programming.
Summer for the City events take place amid visual director Clint Ramos’ dazzling designs for the campus’ many outdoor spaces that COVID lockdowns prevented many visitors from taking advantage of. “They say that when there’s an apocalypse, nature takes over. It’s aesthetically disruptive, and it’s beautiful,” he explains. “That is the inspiration behind this design—after such a time of upheaval, we are finding our way back and making way for new growth, bursting with possibility.”
In these playfully redone spaces, many audience favorites return this summer, from the ultra-popular Silent Disco to an astonishing variety of concerts at the Damrosch Park bandshell (including pop icon Aimee Mann on July 30) and underneath the plaza (Sunday jazz performances at the Underground on Jaffe Drive through July 30). Even last summer’s (Re)Wedding extravaganza—for couples who were unable to hold ceremonies during the pandemic—returns as Wedding: New York’s Biggest Day (July 8), staged by Broadway veteran Scott Wittman in Damrosch Park and on the Dance Floor on Josie Robertson Plaza.
Broadway also comes to Lincoln Center through the Deaf Broadway troupe, which presents Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical Company, enacted by deaf actors in American Sign Language while video of the celebrated 2011 New York Philharmonic concert performance, starring Patti LuPone, Neal Patrick Harris, and Stephen Colbert will be projected, providing the soundtrack (August 2, Damrosch Park). Other programs that highlight accessibility and disability artistry include Big Umbrella Day (July 1), which will take over both indoor and outdoor spaces on campus for a full day of free events for neurodivergent audience members and their families, integrating ASL interpretation, captioning, and relaxed performances.
Among this summer’s most highly anticipated events is the New York premiere of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon’s fully staged, congregational opera based on Butler’s prescient Afrofuturist novel, in honor its 30th anniversary (July 14 and 15, David Geffen Hall).
Beloved Mostly Mozart music director Louie Langrée leads the MMFO for his final summer programs after two decades, beginning with a free concert in Damrosch Park on July 22 as part of Korean Arts Week. It features Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 with Korean soloist (and MMFO member) Jasmine Choi, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, and Soo Yeon Lyuh’s Dudurim, with the Korean composer also playing the haegeum, a traditional string instrument. The MMFO then moves into Geffen Hall, where Langrée and guest conductors including Thomas Wilkins and Gemma New will lead the orchestra in more Mozart as well as contemporary works by composers like Stewart Goodyear, whose Callaloo: A Caribbean Suite for piano and orchestra receives its New York premiere, with the composer at the keyboard (August 1 and 2).
Summer for the City culminates with Hip-Hop Week, a mini-festival honoring the 50th anniversary of what has become one of music’s most popular genres. Among the performers are TweetBoogie and DJ Go BIZZY! (family event, August 9); DJ and producer, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and surprise guests (August 9); and Brazilian musician Arthur Verocai (August 10), performing in its entirety his 1972 debut album, a work that has inspired countless hip-hop artists to sample his work. The festival’s final day, August 12, will be highlighted by several hip-hop events, from a workshop and family program to a trap choir and two Silent Discos and another performance led by emcee Rakim.
Summer for the City celebrates New York as a local destination, as Thake herself notes: “Whether it’s having a lunch break at any of our outdoor dining options, taking selfies with the installation of 200 flamingoes, or staying late for a silent disco, we invite New Yorkers to come together, see themselves, and find their home away from home.