Most of the time, Lincoln Center is the center of establishment culture in the United States. Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it's home to the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera and the New York City Ballet, among other arts institutions.
But for the last six summers, the performing arts complex has been taken over for several weeks by artists of a different stripe as part of the Lincoln Center Festival.
This year's edition, at the midway point of its 20-day run, has featured the likes of minimalist composer Philip Glass, whose opera The White Raven received its U.S. premiere; a series of concerts by African pop bands; and a mini-festival of plays by modern drama's master of the pregnant pause, Harold Pinter. In a production of One for the Road, the playwright is in the cast, making his American acting debut.
The festival is influential, not just because it introduces new works and artists, but because Lincoln Center is the model for performing arts complexes around the country, such as Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
"Our aim is to redefine Lincoln Center in a number of ways," said festival director Nigel Redden, who also directs the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C. "We are trying to expand the idea of what the center should be, expand the definition of the arts in this country, make it somewhat less Eurocentric."
The festival also is a way to keep Lincoln Center busy in the summer, when its constituent companies are off or performing elsewhere.
Tonight, PBS' Live from Lincoln Center broadcasts from the festival, with the network calling the telecast its most technically challenging in the show's 25 years. The show will originate from three venues to feature Senegalese pop singer Youssou N'Dour and his band, the Super Etoile; the avant-garde Trisha Brown Dance Company in El Trilogy, a collaboration between Brown and jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas; and a French nouveau circus, Cirque Plume. Isabella Rossellini hosts.