Welcome back – it’s officially autumn in New York!
By now you know the who, what, and where of our season. So here’s a little about the why – a glimpse behind the scenes of this year’s journey into the Art of Musical Storytelling. Come to all four concerts, or choose your own adventure – whichever you choose, I hope to see you soon!
To kick off our season in November I couldn’t resist programming Let ‘Em Eat Cake, the sequel to Of Thee I Sing. The iconic Gershwin brothers re-teamed with librettists Kaufman and Ryskind to create an even darker comic world that is, in the words of Ira, “a satire on Practically Everything.” With a tuneful score and laugh-out-loud libretto, the show is both a farce and a savage warning… a timely set-up for our next election cycle.
Six years ago, the late James Marcus – a beloved board member – handed me Sheldon Harnick’s English translation of Carmen. It immediately excited me, especially in the way it restored the piece to its original theatrical roots. Ever since, I’ve been wanting to bring it to life. It’s a privilege finally to do so this season, in a production that pairs one of our greatest living legends with a wunderkind female director and a sexy, diverse cast.
I have admired Beth Morrison’s commitment to new opera for many years, even before we first met nearly a decade ago. So I’m thrilled to be collaborating on the NYC premiere of Iron & Coal as part of the Prototype Festival. Not only because it will expand the American opera canon, but because it will add an important new voice to the legacy of Holocaust stories that ensure we never forget.
Our BRIDGES community outreach program began for me as a labor of love, inspired by everything from The Public Theater’s Public Works program to our own inclusive sing-along of St. John Passion in 2017. Since then it’s taken on a life of its own, which is just as it should be: it is music shaped by and for each community we collaborate with. This year, that community is East Side House Settlement in the South Bronx, and the project will feature two pieces, performed by their members alongside the MasterVoices Chorus – the first is a new commission, by the young and extraordinarily talented Tariq Al-Sabir, and the other is the always-mesmerizing Carmina Burana. I’m happy to say I can’t guarantee the exact outcome – only that it will remind you of how wondrous and transformative music-making can be.
There’s always a leap of faith when planning a full season of work – especially when the world seems so unstable, with passions riding so high. But that is precisely when art can work its best magic, transforming that anxiety into something… beautiful. So let MasterVoices be your beacon this year. We can’t know what the future will bring, but we can always look to music and stories to remind us of our shared humanity.