Greenwich native Ted Huffman's job as a music producer and artistic director has been keeping him very busy lately. Over the last six months he been all over the world and has touched down in eight cities in six different countries. But for the next two weeks, Huffman, who now lives in New York City, will be back in Greenwich, overseeing the extraordinary Greenwich Music Festival (GMF) that he co-created nine years ago.
The festival, which kicks off tomorrow, will bring to town an international roster of artists including Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti, piano prodigy Conrad Tao, pianist, teacher, author and radio personality David Dubal, violinist and Greenwich Symphony concertmaster Krystof Witek, Juilliard cellist Elad Kabilio, the Deviant Septet and dancers Percevale Perks and Tyler Phillips. Returning to the festival is dancer and choreographer Zack Winokur.
These performers will bring to life the works of one of Huffman's favorite musicians -- the Russian born American composer Igor Stravinsky.
The festival's varied offerings begin with a film depicting a romantic moment in the composer's life, "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky," on Saturday afternoon, followed by a Sunday lecture, "Igor Stravinsky: The Man and the Music" given by Dubal. On Thursday a chamber music concert, "Pairings," will feature Stravinsky's song cycles, then next Saturday, "Stravinsky: Music for Dance," a performance of Stravinsky's music for ballet will be featured and, finally, a dramatic performance of "The Soldier's Tale" on June 22 and June 23.
Describing "The Soldier's Tale," which tells the story of a man, a violin and a deal with the devil, Huffman says, "It's music, theater and dance all together. And we have Austin Scarlett, the fashion designer and star of Project Runway doing the costume designs."
"This Stravinsky Festival program," continues Huffman, "offers a synthesis of dance, opera and theater. It shows a cross-fertilization of Stravinsky's work."
This innovative mix of mediums has become a trademark of Huffman's festival and is how he first envisioned the Greenwich Music Festival. He is currently on the directing staff of the Metropolitan Opera Company. "Most of the time, I'm working for big companies, which involves compromise for me as an artist," he says. "I wanted to explore other repertoire -- and as a small company, we can take risks."
The Greenwich Music Festival was also a vehicle, he says, for breaking down the divide "between high culture people who are interested in art and people who go to museums, films and theater." "We're breaking down these barriers of the classical arts and looking for ways to engage the community."
"We put the artists into host homes in Greenwich," he says. "They are dancers, actors, musicians, stage and production managers. We have nine homes hosting this year." Huffman says he has found, "If you're more involved on a personal level, you're more likely to be interested in the Festival."
Huffman also strives to include local talent in the Festival programs. "We don't have any programs this time with local people involved, but we do look for pieces for local talent. Our first large-scale community project, (Henry) Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas," involved 20 local high school and college students. And next year, our major work, Benjamin Britten's "Noye's Fludde" (Noah's Flood), will feature a student cast, chorus and orchestra. There is such a good choral tradition in Greenwich."
Huffman's choice to feature Stravinsky fits his philosophy with the Festival. "Stravinsky was breaking new ground in musical composition," he said. "He was always looking for something new. He had immense success with `The Rite of Spring.' He caused a riot!"
For a complete program listing of the Greenwich Music Festival and for tickets, visit www.greenwichmusicfestival.org/2012.