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Dylan, Picasso Top New York's Cultural Season


Every October New York renews its cultural life after the sleepy days of summer. This season an exceptionally varied mix of classical and contemporary works will be on stage, in concert halls and on museum walls. Two twentieth century legends, songwriter Bob Dylan and artist Pablo Picasso, seem omnipresent as the season kicks off.

Broadway producers are mounting a wide-ranging variety of plays and musicals, hoping to capitalize on the boom New York theater has experienced in the last few seasons. Performances of plays by Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw are already under way. Contemporary British playwright Tom Stoppard is causing a stir - and long lines at the box office - with his trilogy of plays focusing on three centuries of Russian life and history. A new and much anticipated production of Stephen Sondheim's beloved musical Company opens in November.

Two other musical megahits, Les Miserables and A Chorus Line are also being revived. Early in the new year, the team that brought Les Miz and Ms. Saigon to Broadway will present its latest bid for blockbuster status, The Pirate Queen.

A stage version of the popular movie Mary Poppins is one of the hottest tickets of the season. The show does not officially open until mid-November but tickets are already on sale through next April.

Political figures from Machiavelli to Richard Nixon are being portrayed in dramas off-Broadway, along with a drama about Rachel Corrie, a young American who died as an activist in Gaza. The play made headlines earlier when the initial producer decided not to stage the production. Now it has been scheduled by a smaller theater group.

Just three years after choreographer Twyla Tharp's directed her first Broadway show set to the music of Billy Joel, she is back again, this time setting a show to the music of songwriter Bob Dylan. The show, The Times, They Are A-Changin', takes its title from one of Dylan's best-known songs.

The times appear to be Dylan's time. He is everywhere in New York this season: in concert at a huge arena, as the subject of two movies, and as the star of a new exhibition at the venerable Morgan Library, better known for Rembrandt and Mozart manuscripts than rock idols. The impact of the music Dylan wrote between 1956 and 1966, curator Jasen Emmons says, makes Dylan worthy of the company he is keeping at the Morgan.

"The power of his songs has always been this ability to transcend the personal and reach the universal. It is a great period of Dylan's career. It is probably the most creative and prolific," he said.

The other larger-than-life artist who is being toasted all over the town is Pablo Picasso. His influence on American painters is the subject of a new show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, aptly titled "Picasso and American Art." Curator Michael Fitzgerald says Americans bolstered Picasso's reputation.

"To a certain extend it does have to do with American wealth, that Americans could acquire the major pictures, but also that they wanted to spend the money that way," he said. "And much of it has to do with the Museum of Modern Art that was founded in 1929."

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is exhibiting a collection of works once owned by the dealer who helped spread Picasso's reputation. The Metropolitan Museum will also present an exhibit focusing on the influence of Paris on American artists and another one on German artists in the Weimar Republic.

Carnegie Hall is hosting orchestras and musicians from across the globe, including a Ravi Shankar festival. And rock fans can look forward to a visit from the Rolling Stones.

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