Adelaide Festival to Produce Leonard Bernstein’s Masterpiece

There’s big – and then there’s Bernstein. From West Side Story to Candide, celebrated Broadway and classical composer Leonard Bernstein knew how to make a big song and dance.  Adelaide Festival will present a new production of Bernstein’s large-scale masterpiece as part of the 2012 program on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 March.

Bernstein’s Mass is rarely performed because of its magnitude.  Featuring a cast of more than 200, Mass embraces a range of genres from musical theatre and opera to rock ballads and blues, with a libretto that mixes Hebrew and Latin texts. 

Jacqueline Kennedy commissioned close friend Bernstein to write a work memorializing the late John F. Kennedy, America’s first and only Catholic president, for the opening of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1971. Bernstein regarded Mass as his defining achievement and his most deeply personal work.

Mass features acclaimed conductor Kristjan Järvi (USA), baritone and gospel singer Jubilant Sykes (USA) in the central role of Celebrant,Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, The Absolute Trio (US), the Adelaide Festival Chorus and Children’s Choir directed by Carl Crossin, as well as Australian dancers and soloists.  Under the direction of Adelaide’s Andy Packer, Mass will be a fully staged theatrical production, designed byGeoff Cobham, with lighting by Mark Pennington.

“Mass is a glorious time machine. It contains details that tell us about the time in which it was made but more importantly by experiencing it now we discover that the concerns and issues raised in it are eternal. By building this musical masterwork on the catholic liturgy Bernstein created something that stretches from 1971 back 400 years and forward to the present day”, says Packer.

Adelaide Festival Artistic Director Paul Grabowsky said Mass explores the crisis in faith and cultural breakdown of the post-Kennedy era – and continues to be relevant today.

“Mass is a kind of religious work for the 21st century in that it traverses many belief systems. The music is typically Bernstein – melodic, energetic and brash. It’s the kind of work which will only appear in a festival because it is so big,” he said. “Along with all the colour of the hundreds of musicians, singers and dancers, the Jubilant Sykes factor is particularly important to this production… more than anyone, he has made the role of the Celebrant his own."

Mass is an eclectic theatrical event that places the 400-year-old religious rite into a tense, dramatic dialogue with music and lyrics of the 20th century. Underpinned by a profound statement of human faith, Mass is explosive, cathartic and ultimately uplifting.

Booking Details:

Where: Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
When: Fri 9 Mar – Sat 10 Mar 8pm
Bookings: or BASS 131 246
Tickets: Premium adult $139, Friends $118, A Reserve adult $118, Friends $99, B Reserve adult $99, Friends $84, Conc $69, Fringe Benefits $30

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