Bryant Park releases summer program of outdoor opera, classical music and dance

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“It introduced us to institutions that didn’t see a park as a place to do their job,” said Dan Fishman, director of public events at the Bryant Park Corporation. “We were the place to be last summer.”

Audiences flocked to the summer 2021 performances, bringing new eyes to some institutions. As a result, they were eager to return this season.

The pandemic has also changed Bryant Park’s role in booking events. “We’ve gone from being a presenter and producer to being a platform for arts institutions in New York to do their work,” Fishman said.

This was however not entirely the result of Covid. In 2019, with the support of longtime sponsor Bank of America, the park added an indoor stage, hooked up a sound system, and added lights. The new equipment gave Bryant Park the infrastructure and staff needed to host a series of events. The timing was perfect for when the pandemic hit.

When places such as Joe’s Pub came looking for outdoor music space, the Bryant Park Corporation was able to offer the park. He might even say yes when the New York City Opera offered to stage a full opera with costumes and sets for the summer season.

“Opera isn’t really done like that outside in New York City,” Fishman said.

Programming begins just before Memorial Day weekend. Besides the New York City Opera, it includes Carnegie Hall, Rafiq Ghatia and Ian Chang and Steinway, which brings pianos. The programs appeal to an audience that might not buy tickets to the opera or the dance, said Dan Biederman, executive director of the Bryant Park Corporation. The program serves classical music or dance enthusiasts who find a lack of performances in July and August, he said.

“The city is not empty!” says Biederman. “I always thought there was a void in the summer for music and dancing.”

There’s also a roster of contemporary dance performances with live music, curated by Tiffany Rea-Fisher. Performances include Ballet Hispánico, tap dancer Ayodele Casel and Emerge125, a modern contemporary company whose executive artistic director is Rea-Fisher.

“It’s crazy to have booked eight years in New York without doing hip-hop,” Rea-Fisher said, adding that recent audiences have been particularly receptive to small groups and new genres.

During the summer of 2021, entry required proof of vaccination and masks, but the Covid rules have disappeared this year. All events, which begin at 7 p.m., are free. Twenty performances will be broadcast live.

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