WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- On the brink of its 32nd season, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts promised it would be an extraordinary year, with the rich sounds of the National Symphony Orchestra again filling its halls and the Royal Shakespeare Company gracing its stage for a five-year American residency.
Michael M. Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, said this will be a year that will include a "landmark NSO series," as well as a wealth of talent showcased in the areas of ballet, modern dance, jazz, theater and international and family programming.
Leonard Slatkin, musical director of the NSO, confirmed the orchestra will stay with the Kennedy Center through 2006.
"The negotiation process was quite brief ... I'm so thrilled this just moved along without any stumbling blocks what-so-ever, and the idea that all of us will continue to work together ... is the ideal," Slatkin said.
The season's kick-off will be clearly marked by the Prelude Festival on Sept. 2, 2002, a two-week festival involving more than two dozen of Washington, D.C.'s finest performing arts companies, including The Washington Ballet, The Washington Opera, Washington Performing Arts Society, Gala Hispanic Theater and the National Symphony Orchestra, to name a few.
The festival's grand finale will launch the center's new season and will present the National Symphony Orchestra featuring Yo-Yo Ma, an internationally acclaimed cellist, playing Elgar's Cello Concerto at the start of the program.
The NSO's season also will feature artists such as Midori and Itzak Perlman, and will include a Brahms celebration and a third NSO Pops season lead by Marvin Hamlisch.
Slatkin will co-direct a festival called "Soundtracks: Music and Film" with John Williams, an Oscar-winning composer.
The festival will spread six nights of performances over two weeks. Performers will delve into the worlds of sound and screen and will include a program titled "A Portrait of John Williams," which will highlight compositions for both the concert hall and his film scores.
"The season of the National Symphony promises to be, if not the most exciting in its history, certainly among the most," said Slatkin.
The Royal Shakespeare Company's five-year exclusive annual residency -- launched by the Prince of Wales to foster a growing relationship between the Kennedy Center and Britain's famous theater company -- adds to the fare.
The Prince of Wales Foundation gave the Center $250,000 dollars as a gift in order to start the program.
The Royal Shakespeare Company will perform "King Lear," "Romeo and Juliet" and "Macbeth" over the next five years.
The Prince of Wales, who is president of the Royal Shakespeare Company, stated for the Kennedy Center, "Washington is in for a real treat, and I am delighted that over the next five years you will have regular opportunities to see just what my favorite theatre company has to offer."
The theater season will feature an All-Star Concert Version of "Carmen Jones" with the NSO, conducted by Placido Domingo and starring Vanessa Williams. Debbie Allen will do the staging for the performance, which will actually open the theater season in November.
Other musicals to be performed will include Stephen Sondheim's "Pacific Overtures," a revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Tell Me On a Sunday," a concert version of "Babes and Arms," as well as the hit "Stone in his Pockets." The Reduced Shakespeare Company will return for another season.
"Sheer Madness" will continue to play in the theater lab, and a musical will be announced for summer 2003 to run in the Eisenhower Theater.
Highlights for the ballet season include an International Ballet Festival featuring American Ballet Theatre, The Bolshoi Ballet, Miami City Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The Kirov Ballet, and the Royal Danish Ballet, as well as performances by American Ballet Theatre, The Bolshoi Ballet's "Nutcracker," Dance Theatre of Harlem, San Francisco Ballet, and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet.
Beyond ballet, the modern dance program too looks brilliant, as it features Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Tatiana Baganova, Martha Clarke's "Vienna: Lusthaus," Garth Fagan Dance, Pilobolous Dance Theater, and Ballet Preljjocaj.
"Celebrating an Icon: The legacy of Paul Taylor" will be showing with Houston Ballet and Paul Taylor Dance Company.
The Kennedy Center's will feature jazz performers, including The Art Tatum Piano Panorama, The Louis Armstrong Legacy Singers Series, Beyond Category Series, Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead, and the Eighth Annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival.
Two center also will launch two new series: The KC Jazz Club and the Platinum Series.
Betty Buckly, who was well known for her roles in "Cats" and "Pippin," among other shows, will be perform as part of the jazz Platinum Series. The Herbie Hancock Quartet also will perform as part of this series, as will Nancy Williams.
The International programming will include "AmericArtes: Mexico and the Andean Countries," which is a multi-year Latin American festival.
This year will also mark the 25th anniversary of the Kennedy Center Honors, which will be broadcast on CBS. PBS will air "Kennedy Center Presents" and the Fifth Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Various free performances will continue on the Millennium stage for the public to enjoy, sending this program into its sixth year.
As Kaiser said, this will be a "rich, diverse year" that will include many and varied elements of the performing arts.