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THE BIG 5-0

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For its 50th anniversary celebration, the Brooklyn Philharmonic has decided to throw a bash that extends over two full seasons.

Why?

"There’s just too much to celebrate," says the orchestra’s artistic advisor, Evans Mirageas, in an exclusive interview with GO Brooklyn. "With all that we wanted to do, we just couldn’t fit it into a single year."

The 50th anniversary is actually next season - with concerts scheduled for May 2005 on the exact days that the orchestra first performed in 1955 - but stretching it out an extra year has its advantages.

"We have the opportunity to do a couple interesting things, since it’s two full seasons celebrating the arts in Brooklyn," Mirageas explains. "We’re going to be paying homage to the first Brooklyn Philharmonic, which was formed soon after that other orchestra, across the bridge [the New York Philharmonic, the oldest orchestra in the country, founded in 1842]. We’re also in the beginning of a search for a new music director [Robert Spano is in his final season], so that ties into a setting of the stage for the direction we are headed next."

The 2003-2004 season consists of five typically wide-ranging concerts. Of those five, only one - a staged version of John Adams’ controversial opera "The Death of Klinghoffer" (Dec. 3-6, part of the BAM Next Wave Festival), recounting the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, which culminated in the murder of U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer - is conducted by Spano.

This raises the immediate question: who will replace him?

Mirageas isn’t saying, because the search is still ongoing. That four different conductors - William Eddins (Feb. 14), Angel Gil-Ordonez (Feb. 28), Ilan Volkov (March 27) and JoAnn Falletta (May 22) - will be at the helm of the orchestra the remainder of the season is a clue that no one has yet been ruled out.

"Everyone who conducts is a candidate," says Mirageas. "We will continue looking next season as well."

In addition to the regular orchestral concerts, the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s 50th anniversary celebration includes many community events that feature chamber music at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, area houses of worship and local library branches. The orchestra’s director of education and community engagement, Ted Wiprud, discussed those upcoming programs.

"We just wanted to celebrate 50 years of making music in and for Brooklyn, so we decided to focus on Brooklyn connections for these events," Wiprud says. "There are so many connections - composers, performers, themes - because with a city the size and diversity of Brooklyn, there’s no shortage of thematic material."

Wiprud notes that all of the programs - Music Off the Walls, Music Off the Shelves, Music in the Sanctuaries and First Saturdays - have a common thread.

"Every program will have at least one composer connected to Brooklyn in some way," he explains.

In addition to these community outreach concerts, the orchestra is inaugurating a new program this season: the first annual Holiday Family Concert will be given Dec. 21 at Brooklyn College.

"This is a wonderful, family-friendly way of introducing children and their parents to the sounds of the orchestra through festive holiday music," Wiprud says.

This two-season celebration of all things Brooklyn by the orchestra is a no-brainer, says Mirageas.

"The astonishing variety in styles of the people who have made Brooklyn their creative home is excuse enough [to do this]," he says. "Any anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the past and anticipate the future."

Such an opportunity comes along only rarely, allowing the orchestra a valuable chance to consolidate its standing in the community.

"We came to the very happy conclusion that our profile is twofold," he says. "We play standard repertoire, looking at it in a new light, and we are also completely committed to finding new talent.

"Brooklyn is a little bit about bragging rights. We owe it to our constituency in Brooklyn to play standard works, but we also owe it to ourselves to do what no one else has the courage to do," says Mirageas.

"Our mission is to refresh the masterworks that everyone loves and also provide an audience the chance to say to those who miss something special, ’You should have been in Brooklyn!’"

 

Subscriptions for the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s 50th anniversary season are on sale now. For tickets, call (718) 622-5838 or visit www.brooklynphilharmonic.org for more information.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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