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Great Performances presents Leonard Bernstein Mass, premiering Friday, May 15 on PBS

Posted April 30, 2020

Great Performances presents Leonard Bernstein Mass, premiering Friday, May 15 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/gperf and the PBS Video app. Featuring 200 artists, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ravinia Festival’s 2019 production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” embraces elements of musical theater, folk and rock music with Latin text from the liturgy, as well as music and lyrics by Bernstein and additional text by “Wicked” composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. Tony Award-winning baritone Paulo Szot (“South Pacific”) stars as the Celebrant, and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director and Bernstein protégé Marin Alsop conducts. The choral ensemble Vocality, the Chicago Children’s Choir, and the Highland Park High School Marching Band also perform. Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich called the production “simply quintessential, stylistically unbound, anything-goes Bernstein, presented on the grandest scale possible.”

Great Performances: Leonard Bernstein Mass begins with a brief overview of the work’s history as a commission by Jacqueline Onassis to open the Kennedy Center in 1971 and features comments from the director, conductor, Bernstein family members and more. As the performance begins, the Celebrant declares his faith but faces resistance from the Street Chorus who questions him and sends him on a journey of discovery. With metaphorical themes and letters written by cast members addressing social issues such as oppression, immigration and bullying, the musical is as relevant today as when it premiered in 1971.

A virtual “panel discussion” will be livestreamed on Ravinia’s Facebook page just prior to the
broadcast, beginning at 8:15 central time. For this talk, Alsop and Kauffman will be joined by Tony
Award-winning (South Pacific) singer/actor Paulo Szot, who starred in the central role of the
Celebrant in both Ravinia performances, as well as Chicago Children’s Choir Artistic Director
Josephine Lee and Highland Park High School Band Director Joshua Chodoroff. The panel will be
moderated by WFMT Vice President and General Manager George Preston.

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