Coming Soon to Little Island: An Arts Festival With Powerful Backers

Little Island, the $260 million park on the Hudson River that opened in 2021, was imagined as a haven for innovation in the performing arts. But the park’s cultural offerings — mostly sporadic, one-off works — have so far fallen short of those ambitions.

Now Barry Diller, the billionaire media mogul who paid for the park, is setting out to deliver on the original vision, financing a robust, four-month annual performing arts festival on Little Island, the park announced on Monday. He is doing so with the guidance of Scott Rudin, the film, television and theater producer who retreated from public view in 2021 amid accusations of bullying by workers in his office.

Diller said in an interview that he and his family foundation were prepared to spend more than $100 million over the next two decades on programming. The festival, one of the most ambitious artistic undertakings in New York City in recent years, will promote new work in music, dance, theater and opera. Nine premieres are planned this year for June through September, including a full-length work by the choreographer Twyla Tharp, and an adaptation of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” in which the countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo will sing all of the leading roles.

“I want people to enjoy the originality and adventure of Little Island,” Diller said. “I want it to produce a smile.”

Rudin, a friend of Diller’s and a longtime adviser to Little Island, was not mentioned in a news release on Monday announcing the creation of the festival, but Diller said he was intimately involved in its planning.

“He’s engaged in almost every discussion we have about the programming,” Diller said. “It started with him. It was his project.”

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