When Leonard Bernstein’s Mass was christened at the 1971 opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the work faced a negative onslaught from critics. Typical were Harold Schonberg’s dismissive comments in the New York Times: “It is the work of a musician who desperately wants to be with it.” But in the nearly five decades since the piece’s premiere, the classical music world has become much more accustomed to the kind of stylistic cross-pollination typified by this work, and views have significantly changed about Bernstein the composer. The world has changed a great deal since 1971, when Mass had its premiere, yet the United States faces many similar challenges, including political divisions and societal upheaval. “The message of community, of standing up for what you believe in about tolerance, about acceptance, about love, about mutual respect, all of these are very strong messages throughout Mass, and it brings together such a diverse cast of people, not just ethnically diverse but generationally diverse,” Alsop said. “I think it is a very important message for the time we’re living in where we have to remember that tolerance is an important part of existence on this planet.”
Ravinia, North America’s oldest music festival, stands today as its most musically diverse, presenting over 140 different events throughout the summer. By popular demand, Ravinia’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, named one of the best concerts of 2018 by the Chicago Tribune, will be given an encore performance featuring conductor Marin Alsop and Tony Award-winning baritone Paulo Szot, who once again heads up the hundreds of artists onstage, from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to the Highland Park High School Marching Band.
Announcing the Chicago-area professional premiere of the work last summer, Ravinia president and CEO Welz Kauffman called Mass “a giant, exhilarating work that was misunderstood in its day, and audiences need to hear it”—the Tribune’s Howard Reich agreed in his review, proclaiming it “simply quintessential, stylistically unbound, anything-goes Bernstein, presented on the grandest scale possible.”
"Simply quintessential, stylistically unbound, anything—goes Bernstein, presented on the grandest scale possible."—Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop, conductor
Kevin Newbury, director
Paulo Szot, Celebrant
Street Chorus and Altar Children
Chicago Children’s Choir Vocality
Highland Park High School Marching Band