Renée Fleming Headlines The REACH’s 2019 Opening Festival

By Nicole Kuchta
(Credit: Jonathon Tichler)

The REACH has announced its “inclusive, multi-genre, multidisciplinary” 2019 Opening Festival, which marks its first-ever expansion to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. For the purpose of this article, we focus on opera-related events.

The Festival’s “Opening Day” will “illustrate the breadth of experience that the REACH is designed to foster,” according to the press release. More than two-hundred artists will take part in “The Future Is Now and I Am It: A Parade to Mark the Moment,” curated by Carrie Mae Weems and The MusicianShip.

Thomas Wilkins will lead the National Symphony Orchestra in an open-air performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, featuring soloists from Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, the Heritage Signature Chorale, and Stanley J. Thurston’s Community Chorus.

The day’s performers will also include Bootsy Collins and The Chuck Brown Band, Underground Comedy, the Kronos Quartet, roots singer-songwriter Valerie June, soprano Larisa Martinez, performance poet Jacqueline Suskin, Speech and Arrested Development, and more surprise guests.

Additionally, composers Mason Bates and Daniel Bernard Roumain will “use themed projections and sounds to create an immersive, chill-out lounge space that will remain open throughout the festival.”

An invitation-only “Land Recognition” blessing ceremony will be led by Kennedy Center Vice President and Artistic Director of Social Impact Marc Bamuthi Joseph and First Nations artists Rose Powhatan and Cryz Proctor.

Performance Date: Sept. 7, 2019

The People We Are: Celebrating First Nations Cultures” will showcase work “by local, national, and international artists who draw on their indigenous heritage,” starting with a “Land Acknowledgement” led by Dr. Gabrielle Tayac and a “Welcome Song” by Ralph and Dennis Zotigh. Performers will include singer-songwriter Thea Hopkins, Canadian electronic outfit A Tribe Called Red, Uptown Boyz, cellist and vocalist Dawn Avery, guitarist Larry Mitchell, recording artist and hula teacher Keali’i Reichel, dancers Amrita Hepi and Ty Defoe, didgeridoo player David Williams, storyteller Rose Powhatan, potter Virgil Ortiz, and graffiti artist Raiz Campos. A panel will feature Ofelia Medina, Andrea Hanley, Christopher K. Morgan in conversation with filmmaker Steven Paul Judd, painter and art writer Frank Buffalo Hyde, and actress Yalitza Aparicio.

Performance Date: Sept. 10, 2019

Spotlight on Classical and Broadway” will offer music-lovers the opportunity to attend masterclasses led by Kennedy Center Artistic Advisor for Chamber Music Joseph Kalichstein, NSO Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke, and award-winning composer Alan Menken.

Reineke will lead the NSO in “Broadway Under the Stars: The Music of Alan Menken,” starring Megan Hilty, Adam Jacobs, Norm Lewis, and Patina Miller. Kalichstein and the Abeo Quartet will perform chamber favorites by Dvořák and Debussy. A Skylight Soundscape takeover by Brooklyn’s National Sawdust and a series of TED-style “Classical Talks” will round out the day’s events.

Performance Date: Sept. 11, 2019

Renée Fleming will curate “Spotlight on Voices, Sound Health, and Washington National Opera,” celebrating WNO and “the wonders of the human voice.” Fleming will be joined in concert by Beninese singer-songwriter and activist Angélique Kidjo and Jason Moran.

The “Freestyle Love Supreme Academy” will offer workshops in rap improvisation and beatboxing, and UrbanArias will demonstrate opera improvisation while attendees enjoy cocktails with WNO singers.

Esperanza Spalding, bass Soloman Howard, and beatboxer Chris “Shockwave” Sullivan will discuss improvisation, vocal mastery, and the brain with Dr. Charles Limb as part of the Kennedy Center’s Sound Health program.

Performance Date: Sept. 12, 2019

Family Day” guests can join author and illustrator Mo Willems for MO-a-PALOOZA LIVE!, catch singer Dan Zanes with jazz vocalists Claudia Zanes and Pauline Jean and percussionist Yuriana Sobrino, see Quonk Opera’s “Hand to Hand,” enjoy a comedy review based on children’s stories with Story Pirates, and create Infinite Monsters in an Terrapin Puppet Theatre’s interactive program. Additionally, there will be a performance by Washington Performing Arts’ Children of the Gospel Choir.

Performance Date: Sept. 15, 2019

Spotlight on Local Youth & Schools” will serve students from kindergarten through high school. There will be an open house for 250 educators and a series of educational Millenium Stage performances, showcasing local music educators, step teams, Latin dance teams, and singers from the Children’s Chorus of Washington, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and WNO’s Opera Institute.

Performance Date: Sept. 16 – 19, 2019

All REACH Opening Festival events are free, but require a timed-entry pass.