Nov. 6, 2003
CUA Helps Kennedy Center Celebrate Renovated Opera House
Excerpts from University Production of Bernstein’s MASS Offered During Nov. 19 Program
Hundreds of students, faculty and alumni from The Catholic University of America will help the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts celebrate its newly renovated Opera House with a free, hour-long “preview” program on Wednesday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m.
CUA students and alumni will join vocalist Doug Webster when they reprise their roles in MASS at the Kennedy Center Nov. 19.
The program will include excerpts from Leonard Bernstein’s “MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers,” featuring opera sensation and CUA alumna Harolyn Blackwell, in addition to students and faculty of The Catholic University of America Orchestra and Chorus.
Bernstein's "Mass" was chosen to be performed at the Vatican in Paul VI Audience Hall to close the millennium celebrations in 2000.
Acclaimed vocalist Douglas Webster also will reprise the role he performed at CUA last spring.
Benjamin T. Rome School of Music Dean Murry Sidlin will conduct the CUA offerings, which will be taken from a production of MASS that Sidlin staged and conducted at the university in April 2003. He said the university was invited to perform at the re-opening of the Opera House after Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser saw how well CUA’s young performers presented MASS in the spring.
Music school Dean Murry Sidlin will conduct.
“We are honored to participate in this historic event offering excerpts of the composition which blossomed at the original Opera House consecration,” Sidlin said. “What will we be thinking backstage before the curtain goes up? We will all look heavenward and think, 'Lenny, here we are to illuminate again your brassy, shimmering and deeply poetic music, your humility, your spirituality and reverence, your crisis of faith and its comforting resolution, your full genius, your obsession with language, your compassion, your love of all things American, especially young musicians. This is for you, Lenny.’”
In addition to MASS, the program will include a performance of “Solo” by dancer Homer Avila and excerpts from the Deaf West production of “Big River” in association with the Mark Taper Forum and Roundabout Theater, which recently had a critically acclaimed run on Broadway. The repertoire of the program has been selected to showcase the improvements in accessibility in the Opera House for all artists and patrons.
The world premiere of Leonard Bernstein's MASS, an epic musical created especially for the inauguration of the Kennedy Center, also was the occasion for the official opening of the Kennedy Center Opera House on Sept. 8, 1971.
The 80-minute score is a profusion of marches, narration, hymns, blues, scat, Hebrew prayers, gospel, Broadway songs, opera arias, rounds and Beethovenesque meditations. In Bernstein’s original program note, he stated, “the intention of MASS is to communicate as directly and universally as I can a reaffirmation of faith.”
Webster debuted in the role of Celebrant at Bernstein’s 70th birthday gala and has since become known as the foremost interpreter of the role. Blackwell’s expressive and exuberant performances and her radiant voice have brought her a wide and varied career on the opera, concert and recital stages of the world. The Washington, D.C., native earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Catholic University in 1977 and 1980, respectively.
Sidlin will lead 220 of his school’s students and faculty, including the CUA Symphony Orchestra and Choral Ensembles, in 30 minutes of selected excerpts from MASS including: I. Devotions Before Mass, Hymn: “A Simple Song”; II. First Introit, Prefactory Players (Kyrie, Asperges, Introibo, etc.), Thrice-triple Canon: Dominus Vobiscum; XIV. Santus; XV. Agnus Dei; XVI. Fraction, “Things Get Broken” and XVII. Pax: Communion.
When Sidlin recently mounted a production of MASS in April 2003, it was part of a weeklong celebration of Catholic University’s new Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center. This production of MASS, choreographed by Dan Knechtges, marks Sidlin’s eighth time conducting the work.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, visit
or call the Kennedy Center at 202- 467-4600.
MEDIA INQUIRIES should be directed to Rae Bazzare, Senior Press Representative for the Kennedy Center, at 202-416-8441 or Chris Harrison, Associate Director for Media Relations at CUA, at 202-319-5600.
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