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THE FIREBRAND OF FLORENCE Begins 3/12

On March 12, 2009 at 7:00 p.m., The Collegiate Chorale appears with The New York City Opera Orchestra at the newly renovated Alice Tully Hall in a performance of Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin's 1945 Broadway operetta The Firebrand of Florence. The performance, led by guest conductor Ted Sperling, stars baritone Nathan Gunn, soprano Anna Christy, baritone Terrence Mann, and soprano Victoria Clark. Krysty Swann, David Pittu and PatRick Goss complete the cast, and narration will be provided by Stage Director Roger Rees.

Boasting a score by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and a book by playwright and screenwriter Edwin Justus Mayer, The Firebrand of Florence had a short run on Broadway in 1945. The work was subsequently not heard for over a half-century until three presentations - Ohio Light Opera (1999), the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London (2000) and the Radio Symphony Orchestra in Vienna (2000) - shed new light on the relatively obscure work. The performances were not only accepted, but widely acclaimed, thus giving hope for a new life in a new century. Variety's theater critic Steven Suskin says "I have long believed that Firebrand in concert should be a dazzling delight."

Benvenuto Cellini, the great Florentine artist, is sentenced to hang, but he is pardoned when the duke realizes that he has not completed a previously commissioned sculpture. Freed, he is able to turn his attention to his favorite model (and object of his affections), Angela. The Duke also is interested in Angela. In a typical operetta plot, Cellini swashbuckles around the stage, keeping the Duke away from Angela, keeping himself away from the Duchess, and escaping yet another death sentence by fleeing to Paris, as the end of the show recapitulates the beginning.

Ted Sperling is the music director for the current Broadway productions of Guys and Dolls and South Pacific. In 2005, he won Tony and Drama Desk Awards for his orchestrations of The Light in the Piazza, for which he was also music director. Other Broadway and off-Broadway credits as music director include Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Fully Monty, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Kiss of the Spider Woman, My Favorite Year, A Man of No Importance, Wise Guys, A New Brain, Saturn Returns, and Floyd Collins. Sperling's work as a stage director includes Off-Broadway productions of Striking 12 and See What I Wanna See, as well as the world premiere of Charlotte: Life? Or Theater? and a revival of Lady in the Dark for the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia. He has conducted the scores for the films The Manchurian Candidate and Everything Is Illuminated, and the short musical film, "Love, Mom", starring Tonya Pinkins. As soprano Audra McDonald's music director since 1999, Mr. Sperling has conducted the New York Philharmonic in a live TV broadcast for New Year's Eve, as well as performances of "La Voix Humaine" at the Houston Grand Opera. He has also conducted for Deborah Voigt, Patti LuPone and Victoria Clark. Mr. Sperling is the recipient of the Shen Family Foundation's Musical Theatre Leadership Award. He currently holds the post of Director of the Music Theater Initiative at the Public Theater.

Roger Rees gained international attention for his portrayal of the title role in the Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC) London, Broadway, and TV productions of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, which earned him Tony and Olivier awards, and an Emmy nomination. In London's West End, Rees has starred in many RSC productions, and created the lead roles in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing and Hapgood and in his own thriller, Double-Double. Rees also has many memorable New York theater credits, and recently toured America in his one-man show about Shakespeare, What You Will.
Rees has appeared in more than 50 films including The Prestige, The Invasion, Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Julie Taymor's Frida. On television, Mr. Rees has had recurring roles on Cheers, The West Wing,and Grey's Anatomy, and starred in a number of TV movies.
Roger Rees was Associate Artistic Director for the Bristol Old Vic Theatre in the UK, and last year he completed a third year as Artistic Director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Other directing highlights include Mud, River, Stone (Playwrights Horizons); The Merry Wives of Windsor; Love's Labours Lost (Old Globe Theatre, San Diego); Arms and the Man (Roundabout Theatre Company); Here Lies Jenny (Zipper Theater); and Teemonisha, Juniper Tree, White House Cantata, American Operetta, An Evening of Kurt Weill (Collegiate Chorale).

A frequent interpreter of new works, baritone Nathan Gunn's many roles include the title roles in Billy Budd, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Hamlet, Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte, the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro, Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette and Ottone in L'incoronazione di Poppea. He also created the role of Clyde Griffiths in the world premiere of Tobias Picker's new opera, An American Tragedy at the Metropolitan Opera. Mr. Gunn has recently ventured outside the standard opera repertoire by starring in semi-staged performances of Camelot with the New York Philharmonic and Showboat at Carnegie Hall, as well as in recitals with some of the world's most prominent orchestras. Gunn's recordings include: solo albums Just Before Sunrise (Sony/BMG, 2007) and American Anthem (EMI), Il Barbiere di Siviglia (SONY Classics), and Peter Grimes with Sir Colin Davis and London Symphony Orchestra (LSO Live!), which was nominated for a 2005 Grammy Award. Mr. Gunn was the recipient of the first annual Beverly Sills Artist Award, and was recently awarded the Pittsburgh Opera Renaissance Award.

Soprano Anna Christy made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2004 as Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, conducted by James Levine, and ever since has impressed international audiences with an extraordinary blend of sparkling voice, powerful stage presence and innate musicality. Christy has become well known for her roles of Lucia di Lammermoor, Oscar in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, Cunegonde in Bernstein's Candide, among others. She has appeared in concert with The Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New York Festival of Song, and in solo recitals in Japan. In 2005, Ms. Christy was selected by New York City Opera as the recipient of the Martin E. Segal Award. In the 2008/2009 season, Ms. Christy performed in Mozart's Entführung aus dem Serail at the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Conlon. In addition, she will be featured in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera at both L'Opera National de Paris and at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.

Two weeks after his 1980 arrival in NYC, baritone Terrence Mann landed his first Broadway play, Barnum, and has seldom been far from the Great White Way since. He donned fur for his next outing as Rum Tum Tugger, the Jaggeresque rock'n'roll feline of Cats (1982), and showed his true penchant for villainy as the fearsome Javert in the original Broadway cast of Les Miserables (1987), garnering his first Tony nomination as Actor in a Musical. His role as the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1994) brought him a second Tony nod as Actor in a Musical. He appeared among Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's critically-acclaimed (but commercially-spurned) Assassins (1990, as Leon Czolgosz, the murderer of William McKinley) and also got to revel in his dark side as Scrooge in Madison Square Garden's A Christmas Carol (1995) and as the Javert-like Chauvelin in Broadway's The Scarlet Pimpernel (1997).

Victoria Clark made her Broadway debut in 1985 in Sunday in the Park With George, and received Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her portrayal of Margaret Johnson in the critically-acclaimed Craig Lucas-Adam Guettel musical The Light in the Piazza at Lincoln Center. She created the role of Alice Beane in Titanic, appeared as Smitty in the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullally, and starred in Jerry Zaks' Tony Award-winning revival of Guys and Dolls with Faith Prince and Nathan Lane. Other Broadway credits include: Urinetown, Sam Mendes' revival of Cabaret, and the Rodgers & Hammerstein revue A Grand Night for Singing. Film credits include Cradle Will Rock directed by Tim Robbins, M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening, and her voice can be heard in many animated feature films including Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Anastasia, and Beauty and the Beast. In addition to being a much sought-after vocalist and actress, she has also enjoyed an illustrious career as a director, receiving numerous honors and fellowships for her work.

Acclaimed young mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann appeared in the title role of Richard Danielpour's Margaret Garner in its New York premiere with the New York City Opera during the 2007-2008 season. In the same year, she made her Avery Fisher Hall debut as the mezzo-soprano soloist in the Verdi Requiem, and appeared at Carnegie Hall with The Opera Orchestra of New York for Puccini's Edgar directed by Eve Queler. Recent appearances include Michigan Opera Theatre and the International Vocal Arts Institute, Israel. Krysty Swann is a graduate of Manhattan School of Music, where she received critical acclaim for Vaughan-Williams' Riders to the Sea and Massenet's Cendrillon. Awards include: the 2008 Intermezzo Foundation Award given by the Elardo International Opera Competition, Second Place Prize Winner for the Gerda Lissner, the Silver Prize with Opera Index, and a 2008 Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation grant.

David Pittu's most recent work on Broadway was the original comedy Is He Dead? at Lyceum Theatre, for which he received a 2008 Tony nomination. In 2007, he appeared as Bertolt Brecht in LoveMusik, Harold Prince and Alfred Uhry's musical retelling of the romance between Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya (Outer Critics Circle Award, Tony and Drama Desk nominations). Other Broadway credits include The Coast of Utopia and Never Gonna Dance. Off Broadway: Stuff Happens (Drama Desk Award), Celebration & The Room, Of Thee I Sing, The Fourth Wall, Sympathetic Magic, The Lights, Hot Keys, The Butter and Egg Man (as director), and The Audience (as co-author). He has also appeared in the films King Kong (2005), Shortbus, and The Spanish Prisoner. TV credits include "The Black Donnellys," "Law & Order", "Third Watch," "Sex & the City," and "The Sopranos".

PatRick Goss is a graduate of the National Theater Conservatory in Denver, CO. In addition to three seasons with the Tony Award-winning Denver Center Theater Company, he has appeared regionally as well as in New York in repertory ranging from musicals to Shakespeare. His most recent appearance with The Collegiate Chorale was in last season's critically acclaimed A White House Cantata.

The Collegiate Chorale, among New York's foremost vocal ensembles, has added to the richness of the City's cultural fabric for more than 65 years. Founded in 1941 by the legendary conductor Robert Shaw, The Chorale has achieved national and international prominence under the leadership of Music Director Robert Bass. The Chorale has established a preeminent reputation for its interpretations of the traditional choral repertoire, vocal works by American composers, and rarely heard operas-in-concert, as well as commissions and premieres of new works by today's most exciting creative artists. In the Summer of 2007, The Chorale performed for the third consecutive season at Switzerland's Verbier Music Festival, where Mr. Bass conducted the ensemble in Orff's Carmina Burana. In July 2008, The Chorale toured with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem.

Thursday, March 12, 2009, 7:00 PM at Alice Tully Hall

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