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Bernstein’s Mass, commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy, at the Rome Opera

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It was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy to Leonard Bernstein ‘Mass’, the masterpiece signed by the great American composer which arrives for the first time at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma with its debut on June 1 at the Baths of Caracalla (reruns on Sunday 3 and Tuesday 5 , again at 9 pm). The new production of the show is entrusted to the director Damiano Michieletto, who after the success of the ‘Rigoletto’ at the Circus Maximus in the summer of 2020 returns to work in Rome, for the first time in Caracalla. On the podium, making his debut with the Capitoline foundation, the conductor Diego Matheuz, one of the most successful musicians from ‘El Sistema’, the didactic-musical model founded in Venezuela by José Antonio Abreu. The ‘theatrical piece for singers, musicians and dancers’ based on a text by Bernstein himself, with additional verses by Stephen Schwartz, had therefore been commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy and performed for the first time, for its inauguration, at the Kennedy Center (John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts) in Washington DC on 8 September 1971. The European premiere dates back to 1973 and was given in Vienna. The work was created to be staged theatrically but in our country, until now, it had only been performed in concert form. “I had never worked in Caracalla – says Michieletto – and I am happy to do it with a show that involves all the forces of the Opera of Rome, with a strong choreographic presence and therefore of the Corps de Ballet. At the center of the scene I inserted a wall, and there will also be a video projection with a map of all the walls that have been built in the world to divide peoples, from Mexico to Palestine, passing through Hungary. Those who have to defend their wealth build walls. we also carry within us – he continues – They are our fears, our prejudices, they represent the impossibility of communicating, the will to steal from the eyes what is on the other side, to close ourselves in our own certainties “. “In the show, the street singers build this wall, and they will also use it to stage a crucifixion of the priest who celebrates mass, played by Markus Werba – he adds – But the wall will be crossed by other men and will be destroyed. The work it will end with a positive image – concludes the director – whoever is crossing the sea of ​​suffering and desolation for having tried to tear down the walls, will see a light of hope “. Alongside Michieletto are Paolo Fantin who signs the scenes, Carla Teti for the costumes, Alessandro Carletti for the lights and Filippo Rossi for the videos. The show involves the corps de ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, directed by Eleonora Abbagnato, in the choreography of Sasha Riva and Simone Repele. On stage there will be a Street People Chorus, composed of musical performers, next to the Theater Choir directed by Roberto Gabbiani. The show will also see the participation of ‘Fabbrica’ Young Artist Program and the Choral Singing School of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. Mass was initially thought of as a traditional mass. Bernstein then opted for a rather experimental play, based on the Tridentine Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. In the libretto, the actual liturgical fragments are kept and sung in Latin, with the exception of the Sanctus which includes verses in Hebrew. There are also additional texts in English by Bernstein himself, but also by other authors such as Stephen Schwartz and Paul Simon. The idea of ​​the work was strongly influenced by some events coeval to the composition. Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 1968, the bicentenary celebrations of Beethoven’s birth in 1970 and Bernstein’s composition of a short piece for the film “Brother sun, sister moon ‘by Franco Zeffirelli, later withdrawn. The work was interpreted by a part of public and political opinion as a stance by Bernstein against the war in Vietnam, President Nixon did not participate in the premiere and even the FBI followed it. genesis.

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