The National Geographic Society collaborated with the National Symphony Orchestra to co-commission a symphonic work that profoundly conveys the vulnerable state of the Arctic. Premiering on March 30, 2019 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, ARCTICA will take listeners on an artistic voyage encouraging them to reflect on the wonders of the region and the unprecedented negative human impact on the world’s wildlife and environments. The piece, by contemporary Russian-American composer Lera Auerbach, was inspired by her travels to Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Barents Sea. Her expedition was organized by marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and founder of the National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seasproject, which works to protect the last wild places in the ocean.
Throughout her career, Auerbach has found inspiration in exploring cultures and environments that encourage deepening our connection to nature. She met Sala —- who has dedicated his career to restoring the health and productivity of the ocean — at the World Economic Forum in Davos where they were serving as Young Global Leaders. Both visionaries in their respective fields, Sala and Auerbach share the belief that conservation can transcend disciplines. They understand that artistic expression can evoke a sense of urgency and inspire audiences to take action toward protecting the natural wonders that sustain life on Earth.
Following her original voyage to Svalbard, Auerbach visited the remote island group again and made trips to Greenland and Iceland in order to develop an understanding of arctic culture. Her time spent with the Inuit people in these polar land- and seascapes informed her understanding of the challenges in this region. She composedARCTICAto draw attention to the threats facing the Arctic, an environment that is changing more rapidly than other parts of the world, warming twice as fast as the global average.
This dire situation has been the focus of two National Geographic Pristine Seas expeditions, led by Sala, to document Arctic wildlife and the traditional way of life of the Inuit.
Paired with a target of protecting 30 percent of land, this ambitious goal is the foundation of the Campaign for Nature, an effort launched last year and led by the Wyss Foundation in partnership with the Society and other conservation organizations. As part of this campaign, the Society is supporting the creation and expansion of protected areas, advocating for the development of ambitious international conservation targets, investing in science and inspiring conservation action around the world.
The planet is at a crossroads — where populations are expanding and current resource demands are far beyond what the planet can provide. As a result, major ecosystems on which all life depends — such as the ocean — are threatened. Science, exploration, education and storytelling, are powerful tools that convey the importance of valuing and protecting our planet and the diverse cultures that call it home.
The world premiere of ARCTICA is part of The Human Journey, a collaboration between the Kennedy Center, the National Geographic Society and the National Gallery of Art. The Human Journey invites audiences to investigate the powerful experiences of migration, exploration, identity and resilience through the lenses of the performing arts, science and visual art. Following its premiere at the Kennedy Center, ARCTICA will travel internationally. Orchestras in all eight nations of the Arctic Council — Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland and Russia — have committed to performing this new symphonic work. ARCTICA is also part of the Kennedy Center’s Direct Current, a two-week celebration of contemporary culture focused on new works and interdisciplinary creations in which artistic worlds collide. ARCTICA begins at 8:00 p.m. on March 30, 2019 and tickets are available for purchase here.
Additionally, there will be a free and open-to-the-public pre-performance panel titled ForeWords, which will discuss conservation, exploration and resilience. The panel, to be held in the Kennedy Center’s First Tier Concert Hall, begins at 6:30 p.m. prior to the premiere performance of ARCTICA. Featured on the panel will be Auerbach, Sala, Ole Jørgen Hammeken and moderator Thomas Friedman, internationally renowned and best-selling author, reporter, columnist and winner of three Pulitzer Prizes.