Audra McDonald, Jessica Vosk, Tony Yazbeck and More to Appear at Tanglewood's Leonard Bernstein Centennial

Audra McDonald, Jessica Vosk, Tony Yazbeck and More to Appear at Tanglewood's Leonard Bernstein Centennial

Tanglewood's season-long Bernstein centennial celebration-one of the most comprehensive looks at Bernstein's amazing impact on the worlds of music and theater taking place in the anniversary year-will culminate in a gala concert on Bernstein's actual 100th birthday, August 25. Reflecting the season-long theme, The Bernstein Centennial Celebration at Tanglewood concert will spotlight Bernstein's wide-ranging talents as a composer, his many gifts as a great interpreter and champion of other composers, his role as an inspirer of a new generation of musicians and music lovers across the country and around the globe, and his presence as a driving musical force at Tanglewood, 1940-1990.

On Saturday, August 25, the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein's birth, Tanglewood pulls out all the stops for The Bernstein Centennial Celebration at Tanglewood concert commemorating the legacy of a man who was one of its most remarkable alumni and one of its most important faculty members and significant champions for half a century.

Bernstein's close relationship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, from the time he became a protégé of legendary BSO conductor and Tanglewood founder Serge Koussevitzky as a member of the first Tanglewood Music Center Class in 1940, until the final concerts he ever conducted with the BSO and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1990. For a detailed history of Bernstein's relationship with the BSO and Tanglewood, click here.

For this landmark gala concert, the BSO is joined by members of the New York Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, Pacific Music Festival, and Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival-all ensembles that were important to Bernstein and his career.

The orchestra will be conducted by five prominent conductors from the BSO family and Bernstein extended family tree: BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart, Boston Pops Laureate Conductor John Williams, San Francisco Symphony Music Director and one of Bernstein's close associates and friends Michael Tilson Thomas, and National Symphony Orchestra Conductor Laureate Christoph Eschenbach, who won the Leonard Bernstein Award from the Pacific Music Festival, where he was co-artistic director from 1992 to 1998 with Tilson Thomas.

Host/vocalist Audra McDonald will be joined on the stage by guest artists Midori, Yo-Yo Ma, Kian Soltani, Nadine Sierra, Susan Graham, Isabel Leonard, Thomas Hampson, Jessica Vosk, and Tony Yazbeck, with James Darrah serving as director, and Joshua Bergasse serving as choreographer.

Throughout the program there will be video interludes including one about Bernstein and his relationship to Tanglewood and the BSO, and another featuring messages from a wide spectrum of people across the globe who have been deeply influenced by his life as a musician and educator. This multi-media event will also include video montages about Bernstein's extraordinary life, and messages from people around the world who have been inspired by his great legacy as a musician and as a dominant cultural figure of his time. The Boston Symphony Orchestra is currently in discussions about a television broadcast opportunity that would bring the August 25 concert to a worldwide audience, with further details to be announced at a later date. Specific details about the program follow.

The first half of the program celebrates Bernstein as a composer, beginning with the infectious energy of the Overture to Candide, under the direction of Andris Nelsons. This is followed by a movement from the violin concerto Serenade (after Plato's "Symposium"), conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, and featuring soloist Midori, who was launched to stardom in 1986 after a legendary Tanglewood performance of this piece with the composer on the podium, during which, in the intensity of her performance, she twice had to borrow violins from BSO members after breaking a string. Keith Lockhart then leads a performance of "Kaddish 2" from Bernstein's Symphony No. 3, with Nadine Sierra as soloist, and featuring the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. The program continues with Mr. Eschenbach leading one of the Three Meditations from Mass, featuring cellist Kian Soltani, the most recent winner of the Leonard Bernstein Award at Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, which Bernstein co-founded. Concluding this portion of the program are selections from West Side Story, with vocalists Isabel Leonard, Jessica Vosk, Tony Yazbeck, and other Broadway artists, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, directed by James Darrah, and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse.

The second half of the program focuses on works that speak to Bernstein's influence as a conductor, champion of fellow composers, and inspiration for younger generations. This section of the concert opens with music by Mahler, one of Bernstein's favorite composers, whose music he championed throughout his career. Baritone Thomas Hampson, whom Bernstein mentored early in his career, sings selections from Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn. John Williams then leads the orchestra in his own composition, Highwood's Ghost, An Encounter for cello, harp, and orchestra, with Yo-Yo Ma and BSO principal harp Jessica Zhou; the piece, which will have received its world premiere the previous week, is inspired by a story Bernstein told about a ghost sighting in the Highwood manor house on the Tanglewood grounds.

This is followed by music by one of Bernstein's closest friends, Aaron Copland-the Finale from his beloved ballet score Appalachian Spring, under the direction of Mr. Tilson Thomas. To bring the festivities to a suitably grand close, soprano Nadine Sierra, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus join forces with the orchestra and Andris Nelsonsfor the Finale from Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, a profound and consoling work that Bernstein conducted in a nationally televised performance with the New York Philharmonic following President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963. The program will come to a dramatic close with the entire lineup of guest artists joining Ms. McDonald, Mr. Nelsons, and the illustrious orchestra gathered for this one-time singular event on stage for a surprise encore.

This special Bernstein Centennial Gala Party, which has already raised $600,000-the second highest grossing fund raising event in Tanglewood's history-is already nearly sold out more than two months before the event is to take place. The festive dinner, which will be attended by all three of Leonard Bernstein's children, Alexander, Jamie, and Nina, as well as artists and colleagues who worked closely with Mr. Bernstein, will take place prior to the evening's performance, at 4:30 p.m. in the Highwood tent.

The color scheme of the evening will be red, black, and white, picking up on the contrasting shades of Bernstein's performance life, reflecting his black tuxedo and white shirt, as well as the red silk interior of the black cape he wore so often-a gift from his most important mentor, Serge Koussevitzky, founder of Tanglewood (1937) and the Tanglewood Music Center (1940) and BSO music director, 1925-1949. The walls of the party tent will be decorated with rare formal and informal images of Mr. Bernstein at Tanglewood, 1940-1990, as well as images of Bernstein with artists, friends, family, and colleagues with whom he closely interacted throughout his life.

The August 25 dinner menu was inspired by some of Leonard Bernstein's favorite foods; though the menu isn't yet finalized, some of his favorite foods include tomatoes, radicchio, steak, and corn, as well as a Rob Roy cocktail, Bernstein's favorite drink and one that he enjoyed with Olga Koussevitzky. Details about the menu for the August 25 gala party will be announced at a later date.

The Bernstein Centennial Gala Honorary Committee includes Alexander Bernstein, Jamie Bernstein, and Nina Bernstein Simmons; James and Jennifer Burton; Christoph Eschenbach; Ms. Susan Graham and Mr. Clay Brakeley; Thomas Hampson and Andrea Herberstein; Keith and Emiley Lockhart; Yo-Yo Ma and Jill Hornor; Audra McDonald and Will Swenson; Midori; Andris Nelsons; Nadine Sierra; Kian Soltani; Michael Tilson Thomas and Joshua Robison; Mark and Martha Volpe; Samantha and John Williams.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos

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