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Press Releases

Mastervoices Announces Details of its 2018-19 Season

September 14, 2018 | By Pascal Nadon

New York Premiere of Multimedia Version of Handel’s Israel in Egypt with Film and
In-the-Moment Painting by Kevork Mourad at Carnegie Hall

Night Songs and Love Waltzes to Feature New Ricky Ian Gordon Song Set to Langston Hughes Poem and Premiere of Ted Sperling’s Waltzes Suite Arrangement from
Sondheim’s A Little Night Music
 at Alice Tully Hall

New Adaptation of Lady in the Dark with Victoria Clark as Part of
New York City Center’s 75th Anniversary Season

New York, NY, September 11, 2018 — Ted Sperling, Artistic Director of MasterVoices, announced details of the acclaimed ensemble’s 77th season, celebrating the power of the human voice to unite, inspire and connect since 1941. The upcoming season will be framed by two major musical events, the New York premiere of a multi-media version of Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt performed at Carnegie Hall, and a new adaptation of the Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin-Moss Hart avant-garde musical, Lady in the Dark, starring Victoria Clark at New York City Center. Lady in the Dark has not been seen in New York since it was presented at New York City Center in 1994 as part of the inaugural Encores! season.

Another season highlight will be Night Songs and Love Waltzes, an Alice Tully Hall program which will include songs by Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn, Clara and Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert, and Johannes Brahms, a song cycle by Ricky Ian Gordon set to poem by Langston Hughes, including the world premiere of a new song, and Waltzes Suite from A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondheim, in a new arrangement by Mr. Sperling.

Said Mr. Sperling, “This season our commitment to the art of musical storytelling is in full swing with works that illuminate the human condition across cultures, continents, and centuries. From the re-imagining of a biblical tale to the revival of a lost tradition and the remounting of a spectacular cult classic, our 130-voice chorus and world class soloists will be bringing to life the power of the human imagination at its most dynamic and most immediate. In collaboration with composers, librettists, visual artists, fashion designers and choreographers, we aim to create a new culture around choral concerts that remains true to the art form while opening the door to new audiences.”

Israel in Egypt
On November 28 at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, Mr. Sperling will lead the New York premiere of a multi-media version of Israel in Egypt, Handel’s timely oratorio of exile and displacement, reflecting the biblical account of the heroic flight of Israelites enslaved in Pharaonic Egypt and their crossing the Red Sea. In collaboration with The Juilliard School, MasterVoices will feature soloists who are current students or alumni from the Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts, including sopranos Mikaela Bennett and Jessica Niles, countertenor John Holiday, baritone Gregory Feldmann and bass-baritone Erik Van Heyningen, as well as rising star tenor Andrew Stenson. The program will also feature the New York Baroque period instrument ensemble and Syrian Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad. Mourad will create a combination of pre-composed film and in-the-moment paintings that bring a personal perspective to the work’s universal theme of displacement and the entrenched human instinct to return home. Commented the artist, “This story is very familiar to me because of my Armenian background. My ancestors were forced to leave their homes 100 years ago and were welcomed by Syrians. And now this has happened to the Syrians: almost half the population has been forced to leave their homes. The story of the Exodus is mirrored in the refugee crisis in the country of my birth, Syria, and many other countries around the world, where people are forced out of their homes due to violence and economic hardship. History is repeating itself, and the idea of finding a new home, the right to safety, is something that resonates with me, the descendant of refugees.”

Kevork Mourad, a member of the Silk Road Ensemble as a visual artist, is known for making fantastical paintings in spontaneous collaboration with performing artists. His process for Israel in Egypt involves a technique of live painting that will be projected onto the walls of the hall, combined with animated sequences. This production was commissioned by Los Angeles Master Chorale, which premiered it in February 2018 at Walt Disney Hall. Mourad’s multi-media work The Sound of Stone will be performed on November 2 under the auspices of MetLiveArts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tickets for Israel in Egypt start at $30 and are on sale now. Tickets may be purchased online at carnegiehall.org, by calling CarnegieCharge at 212.247.7800, or in person at Carnegie Hall’s box office at 57th and Seventh Avenue.

Night Songs and Love Waltzes
The third season highlight will be Night Songs and Love Waltzes, on March 1, 2019 in Alice Tully Hall.   This evening of songs and piano works will feature the music of such influential Romantic era composers as Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara and Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert, and Johannes Brahms, as well as today’s Ricky Ian Gordon and Stephen Sondheim, and the poetry that inspired them. With soloists including soprano Nicole Cabell, alto/mezzo Kate Aldrich, baritone Nmon Ford, and duo pianists Anderson & Roe, Night Songs and Love Waltzes will display multiple configurations from vocal solos, duets, trios, and quartets; men’s chorus, women’s chorus, and the full MasterVoices chorus; and arrangements featuring four horns and duo pianists.

Tickets for Night Songs and Love Waltzes will be available starting on December 10th. Tickets may be purchased online at lincolncenter.org, by calling 212.721.6500, or in person at the Alice Tully Hall Box Office at 1941 Broadway.

Lady in the Dark
The new adaptation of Lady in the Dark, the rarely-seen masterpiece with music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, book by Moss Hart, and script adaptation by Christopher Hart, will be performed on April 25 and 26 as part of New York City Center’s 75th Anniversary Season. It will be directed and conducted by Ted Sperling, choreographed by Doug Varone and will star Tony Award winner Victoria Clark. Taking advantage of a new critical edition of the script and score, and to bring the show’s surreal Glamour, Wedding and Circus dream sequences for which the ground-breaking Broadway musical is known to vivid life, MasterVoices has enlisted the curatorial help of Vogue international editor-at-large Hamish Bowles to identify young designers to collaborate on the costumes.

MasterVoices has performed many of Kurt Weill’s lesser-known works, including The Firebrand of Florence, Knickerbocker Holiday and The Road of Promise. Lady in the Dark will feature the 130 singers of MasterVoices, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Doug Varone and Dancers and a cast of Broadway, television and movie stars. This presentation will be, in its own way, as lush and extravagant as the original production of 1941. Mr. Sperling added, “Lady in the Dark is a piece I have loved since discovering it 35 years ago. I had the pleasure of directing a full production at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia in 2001, and now am finally able to bring this neglected masterpiece back to New York, directing my great college friend, Victoria Clark…. It’s a dream come true.”

Tickets for Lady in the Dark start at $30 and can be purchased online at NYCityCenter.org, by calling 212.581.1212, or in person at the City Center Box Office. New York City Center is located at 131 W 55th St between Sixth and Seventh avenues.

MasterVoices in the Community
This season MasterVoices will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its Side-By-Side program, which nurtures the next generation of singers and choral music lovers. Each year, 15-20 high school students from the greater metropolitan area get the opportunity to sing “side by side” with experienced chorus members. The program provides mentoring, musical training, master classes, and unprecedented concert performance opportunities at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and New York City Center, among others. Students attend regular rehearsals, paired with a mentor in the chorus who guides them in musicianship, rehearsal discipline, performance practice, and rehearsal and performance etiquette. The participating Side-By-Side schools are also given free “friends and family” tickets for each performance. The Side-By-Side program provides invaluable learning and performance experiences for talented youths whether they go into music as a profession or not; but for those who do, this program can boast over 20 alumni who are now performing as professional musicians, nearly 100 program alumni now pursuing undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degrees in a music-related field, and approximately 15 alumni who continue to sing with MasterVoices on a regular basis.

Another facet of MasterVoices’ mission is the pursuit of a more intentionally inclusive and diverse choral experience that focuses on underserved communities. In 2016 MasterVoices launched BRIDGES, a two-year community-engagement project for which it commissions a composer to be “in residence” with a specific New York community over the course of a year. This initiative creates a work that involves local groups and speaks to issues of pressing social concern to them. The inaugural project, NAAMAH’S ARK, was created by composer Marisa Michelson with residents of Lawrence, Long Island – an ethnically and socio-economically diverse community that had suffered widespread devastation during Hurricane Sandy. The piece, based on the story of Noah’s Ark as told by his wife, was ultimately performed in Lawrence and again at NYC’s historic Ansche Chesed Synagogue. As a testament to its impact, MasterVoices was asked to adapt the piece with local communities in Lower Manhattan this summer – another area severely affected by Sandy. That performance took place outdoors as part of LMCC’s River to River Festival in June 2018.

More About the Works

Israel in Egypt
In 1739, an advertisement in the London newspapers announced: “Mr. Handel will entertain the Town with several Oratorios . . . two Organs being fitting up at the Opera-House in the Hay-Market for that purpose.” Handel had enjoyed success in London with his Italian operas but the oratorios he was now offering were a relative novelty in that they were to be performed in English, born out of his shrewdness as an impresario who was running his own opera company in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

By the 1730s, the English taste for Italian opera was waning. Another challenge came from the church: ecclesiastical authorities banned the performance of any staged work during the entire season of Lent. Handel’s opera company began to experience financial difficulties, and in 1737, it went bankrupt. But he had a theater to fill. He turned to another vocal art form he had encountered in Italy, the oratorio, a kind of drama, usually on a sacred subject, that was presented as a dialogue, without staging, costumes, or acting. With individualized characters and a story told in music, the oratorio offered many of the pleasures of opera.

Handel’s three-part Israel in Egypt was first performed on April 4, 1739 at London’s King Theatre. The libretto is believed to be by Charles Jennens, who would compile the biblical texts for the Messiah some three years later. His first English oratorios were very well received but Israel in Egypt was a failure and played only three performances. In 1740, it was revived briefly, amplified by solo arias from Handel’s other works. Except for that, the work lay dormant during Handel’s lifetime. In 1754, it was revived for a festival commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Handel’s birth. In the following years, singing in amateur choral societies became an exceedingly popular activity among the Victorians, and Israel in Egypt was a favorite of these groups. The work became one of Handel’s most popular non-Messiah oratorios. It was presented with a chorus of 4,000 at the Handel Festival in London’s Crystal Garden in 1888. A few moments of this massive undertaking were captured on a wax cylinder. This clip is one of the oldest known recordings of the human voice.

Night Waltzes and Love Songs
“Part singing,” or music for a group of people to sing for fun, was a huge part of the musical fabric of the salons of the 19th Century. There was a gradual movement from the salon to the concert hall, and in this program, MasterVoices aims to recreate the intimate atmosphere of a house concert, with friends gathered around the piano to sing in harmony.

The program will include a piece by Fanny Mendelssohn, the older sister of Felix Mendelssohn and the composer of some 500 songs and piano pieces. Because her family deemed it unacceptable for her to be a professional musician she exerted much of her creative energy as a salon hostess, transforming her private salon into a semi-public concert hall, unique in the musical world of her day. Her Frühling (1846) for tenor and piano, from her Opus 1, is the first set of lieder she chose to publish.  It is set to a poem by Joseph von Eichendorff, to whom she returned often for inspiration. Lied was, in many ways, the most quintessential of all Romantic genres—fragile, fragmentary and intimate—and it allowed Fanny Mendelssohn to demonstrate true mastery of her craft.

While Fanny Mendelssohn performed only once in public, Clara Schumann, fourteen years her junior, enjoyed a career in the public sphere as a composer and performer, making sure to include at least one work of her own in every performance to promote her compositional skill. Her Gondoliera was composed in 1848, one of three choral works in Gemischte Chore, composed in celebration of the 38th birthday of her husband, composer and critic Robert Schumann.

The MasterVoices Chorus will also be featured in the two works on the program by Robert Schumann. The timeless well-known part song Zigeunerleben (Gypsy Life) Op. 29 No. 1 for soloists, mixed choir and piano, set to a poem by Emanuel Geibel, and excerpts from his Jagdlieder (Hunting Song) Op. 137 for men’s choir and four french horns, from his Waldszenen, are reminders of the composer’s love of poetry that embody the spirit and emotion of Romanticism.

In 1827 Franz Schubert was asked by a friend, Anna Fröhlich to write a serenade to a poem by another friend, Franz Grillparzer, for her pupil’s 24th birthday to be performed perhaps at the salon for which the Fröhlich’s were known.  Schubert wrote Ständchen (also known as “Notturno”) D920 for a male chorus, but this was an error: Anna and her female friends wanted to serenade the birthday girl. He reworked it for mezzo, female chorus and piano. In this concert, the two versions will be blended to showcase both women’s and men’s choruses, along with the mezzo soloist.

In 1995 composer Ricky Ian Gordon premiered Only Heaven, a song cycle of 17 poems by 20th century writer Langston Hughes. “The most distinctive music heard all season, it embraces Hughes’ bumpy asymmetrical rhythms with a soaring mellifluousness, not bothering with catchy melodic hooks but going straight to the emotional center,” wrote David Patrick Stearns in USA Today. At this evening’s concert, the song cycle will premiere a new song set to a Hughes poem, a MasterVoices commission.

There is speculation, and strong evidence in an 1868 letter from Johannes Brahms to the now widowed Clara Schumann, that his Liebeslieder Walzer Op. 52 arranged for two pianists with vocal quartet, written that year, was borne of his frustration and unrequited love for her. The texts are from Georg Friedrich Daumer’s Polydora, a collection of 18 folk songs and love poems.

The many complicated aspects of love experienced and expressed by the musical treasures of the Romantic composers blossomed on the Broadway stage in 1973 with Stephen Sondheim’s musical masterpiece, A Little Night Music, inspired by the Bergman film which magically dramatized the entangled romantic lives of several couples. The finale of the evening will be the premiere of Ted Sperling’s Waltzes Suite from Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.

Lady in the Dark
For writer Moss Hart, lyricist Ira Gershwin, and composer Kurt Weill, Lady in the Dark represented a departure and a turning point. It was Moss Hart’s first full book for a musical, Ira Gershwin’s first collaboration after the death of his brother George, and would prove to be Kurt Weill’s first major Broadway success. In 1941, all three wanted to break free of the prevailing musical comedy conventions of the day, and they succeeded, creating a hit musical about a somewhat serious subject (psychoanalysis) with an unusual structure.

Considered highly advanced for its time, in both structure and content, the show takes flight most creatively in the extended dream sequences as experienced by Liza Elliot, a fashion magazine editor who suffered a trauma early in life. She retreats to a safe position, building a life that keeps her from having to express herself. As she reaches the age of 40, Liza’s protective structure begins to develop cracks, and her unhappiness starts to force its way to the surface. Her visits to Dr. Brooks help her face her unhappiness, and force Liza to look at her childhood experiences from a wiser, adult perspective.

The 1941 production of Lady in the Dark was an extravagant one. Boasting a cast of 56 actors, singers and dancers, an orchestra of 21, and four turntables, it featured costumes by Irene Sharaff and gowns by Hattie Carnegie. Gertrude Lawrence starred and Danny Kaye became an overnight sensation when he brilliantly executed the tongue-twisting lyrics to “Tschaikowsky.” The film version starred Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland, the most expensive and lavish movie since Gone with the Wind. With its unusual subject matter and structure – as a naturalistic play with extravagant musical dream sequences interspersed – Lady in the Dark heralded an era of continuing innovation in the musical theater. 

Details of MasterVoices’ 2018-19 season can be found at mastervoices.org.

About MasterVoices
MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale) was founded in 1941 by the legendary American choral conductor Robert Shaw and is currently under the artistic direction of Ted Sperling. For 77 years, the organization has presented varied programming, with emphasis in three areas: choral masterpieces, operas in concert, and musical theater. Choral classics performed by MasterVoices have included Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and St. John Passion, Brahms’ Requiem, Britten’s War Requiem, Fauré’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s The Creation, Mozart’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Verdi’s Requiem. The company has presented several important premieres, including the U.S. premieres of Dvorák’s Dmitri and Handel’s Jupiter in Argos, and the NY premieres of Respighi’s La Fiamma, Glass’s The Juniper Tree, and Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath. Other rarely heard operas presented in concert have included Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans, Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon, and Joplin’s Treemonisha. Throughout its history, MasterVoices has specialized in presenting rarely heard works of musical theater and standard works with a fresh approach, including Bernstein’s A White House Cantata, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and Weill’s The Firebrand of Florence, Knickerbocker Holiday, and the world premiere of a concert version of The Road of Promise.

MasterVoices has performed in prominent NYC concert halls, including Carnegie Hall, New York City Center, and Geffen Hall, under the batons of many esteemed conductors, including Serge Koussevitzky, Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, and Alan Gilbert. The company has also attracted many world-class soloists, including Bryn Terfel, René Pape, Stephanie Blythe, Deborah Voigt, Eric Owens, Thomas Hampson, Kelli O’Hara, Paulo Szot and Victoria Clark. Because of its reputation of excellence, MasterVoices has been hired to perform with many top orchestras over the years, including the NBC Symphony, The New York Philharmonic and The Israel Philharmonic, and has been invited to appear abroad, in Israel and at the Verbier and Salzburg Festivals.

In August 2015, the organization transitioned from The Collegiate Chorale to MasterVoices, a name that better represents the current mission of the company as a performing arts organization that celebrates storytelling through the masterful voices of its chorus and world-class soloists, and the creative voices of composers, librettists, designers and directors.

For more information, visit mastervoices.org. Connect with MasterVoices on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@mastervoicesny).

About Ted Sperling
One of today’s leading musical artists, Ted Sperling has enjoyed a career on the concert stage and in musical theater over 30 years. He has led such symphony orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Iceland Symphony, Czech National Symphony and BBC Concert Orchestra, as well as New York City Opera and Houston Grand Opera, often working with leading singers from the opera and Broadway stage. Artistic Director of MasterVoices and formerly Principal Conductor of the Westchester Philharmonic, Mr. Sperling is a multi-faceted artist also known for his work as orchestrator, singer, pianist, violinist, violist, director, and music director.

His 2018-2019 concerts include a Bernstein program at the Caramoor Music Festival, a Bernstein recital with soprano Isabel Leonard at the Kimmel Center and the Park Avenue Armory, an opera program with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra in Dublin, two film programs with San Francisco Symphony, Handel’s "Messiah" and a film program with Stamford Symphony. In New York, he has conducted multiple concerts with the New York Philharmonic, for PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center, the American Songbook Series at Lincoln Center, and the Lyrics and Lyricists series at the 92nd Street Y. Recent performances at Carnegie Hall include the NY premieres of Not the Messiah starring Eric Idle; Kurt Weill's The Road of Promise starring Anthony Dean Griffey; and Ricky Ian Gordon’s opera, The Grapes of Wrath, starring Nathan Gunn, Elizabeth Futral, Christine Ebersole and Victoria Clark. Mr. Sperling conducted Audra McDonald in a double bill of La Voix Humaine and the world premiere of Send: Who Are You? I Love You? at the Houston Grand Opera.

Mr. Sperling is the music director for My Fair Lady now playing at Lincoln Center Theater. He won the 2005 Tony and Drama Desk Awards for his orchestrations of The Light in the Piazza, for which he was also music director, and has numerous other Broadway credits as music director, conductor, and pianist. He has conducted the scores for the films The Manchurian Candidate and Everything Is Illuminated, and directed the short film Love Mom, starring Tonya Pinkins. Mr. Sperling’s work as a stage director includes the world premieres of five musicals: Red Eye of LoveThe Other Josh CohenSee What I Wanna SeeCharlotte: Life? Or Theater? and Striking 12, as well as a revival of Lady in the Dark.

He received the 2006 Ted Shen Family Foundation Award for leadership in the musical theater and is Creative Director of the 24-Hour Musicals. He graduated summa cum lade from Yale University, and received the Faculty Prize from The Juilliard School.

 

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Press Contact
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Pascal Nadon
Pascal Nadon Communications
Phone: 646.234.7088
Email: pascal@pascalnadon.com


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