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Central Park Summerstage: Closer Than You Think

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Free concerts in the summer contain all the elements of complete mayhem, and the Summerstage series in Central Park is no exception.

This year's good news is that in celebration of 25 years of Summerstage, The City Parks Foundation and Mastercard paired up present 16 parks in all five boroughs. The events are a carefully balanced mix of big and lesser-known artists flying the flag of "only in New York" specialization.

Here are some shows that promise to get your lighters in the air:

Saturday, June 12 - Screening of Oscar Niemeyer - Life is a Breath of Air followed by Maria Gadu and Paralamas do Sucesso

Oscar Niemeyer is an architect of Brazilian history as much as he is of its structures, so this may be one of the only opportunities for New York audiences to see the film about his life that critics in Brazil raved about.  Maria Gadu represents the future of Brazilian rock and pop music with a dressed-down, personal style. She's an artist that just might make the Mainstage in Central Park seem like a Saturday barbecue with friends where she happened to pull out her guitar.  Paralamas do Sucesso have been innovating Brazilian rock since the 70's, so chances are, there will a lot of jumping around to the Brazilian classics that don't have a hypnotic Bossa Nova beat.

Thursday, July 15 - The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series with Monica Yunus, Matthew Plenk and Donovan Singletary

Between ticket prices and fear of vikings in horn hats, opera can be one of the most intimidating art forms for the general public to explore.  Enter the Summer Recital Series, which will send top-shelf vocalists from the Metropolitan Opera into all five boroughs, for free.  At this particular Thursday night performance, the fanfare of the Met will be left for the fanfare of Crotona Park in the Bronx.

Friday, August 13 - Paul Taylor II and Naganuma Dance

So if Brazilian music and opera leave you cold, modern dance with a view of the water in East River Park might be just the thing.  Paul Taylor II is like Paul Taylor's travel bag - it's the streamlined company with performances that represent what the larger company is up to.  New York-based Naganuma Dance company is a multi-ethnic, multilingual ensemble with performers from around the globe.