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Renée Fleming, Joshua Henry, Cheyenne Jackson, Kelli O'Hara and More to be Featured in MYTHS AND HYMNS

Additional performers who will be featured include Capathia Jenkins, Mykal Kilgore, Norm Lewis, Jose Llana, Elizabeth Stanley and more.

Renée Fleming, Joshua Henry, Cheyenne Jackson, Kelli O'Hara and More to be Featured in MYTHS AND HYMNS

Ted Sperling, Artistic Director of MasterVoices, announced details of the 79th season of the ensemble, which celebrates the power of the human voice to unite, inspire, and connect. The central project of MasterVoices' 2020-2021 season will be a virtual rollout of award-winning composer Adam Guettel's theatrical song cycle, Myths and Hymns, in an online staging conceived by Ted Sperling. Inspired by Greek myths and a 19th-Century Presbyterian hymnal, the 1998 cycle is a kaleidoscopic collection of musical genres as it explores the nature of faith and longing in a secular world.

New short musical films will illustrate the protagonist's exploration of Flight, Work, Love, and Faith over 23 episodes. The four chapters of this personal voyage will be released in free digital installments throughout the winter and spring. The first chapter will be available for streaming starting on January 13 at 6:30 PM ET on mastervoices.org and the ensemble's YouTube channel.

Aligned with MasterVoices' notable tradition of reclaiming hidden gems, Myths and Hymns ("Gabriel Fauré meets Stevie Wonder, Caetano Veloso embraces Earth, Wind and Fire, and they all dance together around the tribal hearth," raved Stephen Holden in The New York Times) will feature new choral arrangements by Ted Sperling and will involve dozens of artists. The first chapter, Flight, features the MasterVoices chorus; duo pianists Anderson & Roe; a cappella gospel music group Take 6; soloists from the pop, opera, and theatrical landscapes, including Julia Bullock, Renée Fleming, Joshua Henry, Capathia Jenkins, Mykal Kilgore, Norm Lewis, Jose Llana, Kelli O'Hara, and Elizabeth Stanley; with contributions by directors Greg Anderson, Sammi Cannold, Lear deBessonet, Khristian Dentley and Ted Sperling; visual artists Yazmany Arboleda, Cloud Chatanda, Steven Kellogg, Lucy Mackinnon, and Danny Mefford; arrangers Greg Anderson and Mark Kibble; lyricist Ellen Fitzhugh; and orchestrators Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence.

The three subsequent chapters, streaming on February 24, April 14, and May 26 will feature the MasterVoices chorus; soloists Daniel Breaker, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Joshua Henry, Cheyenne Jackson, and Nicholas Phan; actor John Lithgow; directors Trip Cullman, Doug Fitch, Anne Kauffman, and Ted Sperling; visual artist Manik Choksi; lyricist Ellen Fitzhugh; and orchestrators Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence, as well as additional artists to be announced at a later date.

Following his Obie Award-winning 1996 musical Floyd Collins - for which Ted Sperling served as Music Director - Adam Guettel's next project was the song cycle Myths and Hymns. The songs were inspired by two very different sources: the ancient Greek stories of Icarus, Pegasus, Hero and Leander, and Sisyphus, and Protestant hymn texts that the composer found in an antique hymnal. It was workshopped in several forms and venues and ultimately performed as Saturn Returns in an extended run at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in 1998, where it became a must-see event. Sperling and Guettel made a recording of selections for Nonesuch Records using the original title, and ever since then the work has been known as Myths and Hymns.

Due to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, these online performances replace the 2020-2021 season productions and concerts that would have taken place onstage before an audience in New York during the same period.

Said Mr. Sperling, "I've thought for years that this piece would merit revisiting with MasterVoices, and now it's proving to be the perfect project for us to tackle during the COVID era. I always aim to choose material for MasterVoices that has a relationship to the issues and feelings that we as a community are facing, and while this collection doesn't spring from this sort of external crisis, it does explore an internal one.... a crisis of purpose, a feeling of being lost, of having 'a hunger inside me.' As many of us struggle to figure out how to keep moving forward when so many options seem unavailable, I hope this project will bring a sense of joy and possibility to our performers, collaborators, and audience."

Adam Guettel added, "Myths and Hymns should be like clay for good directors and a vessel for imaginative singers. For the MasterVoices production, we have all of those rarities assembled, and I cannot wait to see what they do."

Held the evening prior to each installment's public launch, MasterVoices will host a series of private virtual screenings with additional content featuring Ted Sperling and some of the artists. More details on the screenings are available here.

More About Myths and Hymns

The song cycle opens with a jaunty prologue, Prometheus, and is sparked by the song Saturn Returns: the Flight. This song lays out the central issue that the cycle is attempting to resolve: a "hunger inside" that is not easily categorized or sated, a feeling that something has been lost, a yearning for completion, for fulfillment. The four chapters then explore different "places" where the answer may lie.

In the first chapter, Flight, the answer seems to be "up," or "away." Guettel frames the myth of Icarus as the story of a young man striving to get out from under his famous father's shadow and shine like the sun. After his crash, the solace and hope of Migratory V expresses the human aspiration to fly together and soar above the troubles below. The retelling of Pegasus explores the fall of the hero Bellerophon when he angers Zeus. The chapter ends with the cycle's first hymn text, Jesus, the Mighty Conqueror, with its refrain consisting of the single word, "rise," repeated over and over.

In the second chapter, Work, the possible answer comes in dedication, striving, and struggle. Children of the Heavenly King/At the Sounding is a call to action creating an ebullient mood, and in contrast, Build a Bridge describes the sense of futility of attempting a bridge too difficult to cross. It is followed by the humorous back-and-forth motion of Sisyphus, who is relentlessly optimistic that he will finally succeed in pushing the rock to the top, and the chorus, which is forced to watch his vain efforts. Life is But a Dream takes "Row Your Boat" as a jumping-off point, and asks ruefully, "Is it really like the song? Do we gently row along?" The chapter ends with Every Poodle with scat lyrics and raga-inspired dance breaks, a release after all this effort.

In Love, the third chapter, Hero and Leander evokes the sounds of the roiling waves that stand in the way of the lovers' union, and ultimately prove their ruin. Come to Jesus intertwines the story of a young couple's dissolution because of an unwanted pregnancy with the haunting hymn text of the title, and the chapter ends with the wistfully humorous and self-involved How Can I Lose You?

In the last chapter, Faith, There's a Land conjures a version of heaven where all problems are solved. There's a Shout also puts stock in a God that will come to the rescue. Awaiting You mourns the loss of loved ones and teachers. A recasting of Saturn Returns shows the acceptance that fulfillment will have to come from an internal change, a reconciliation of desire and acceptance. Light After Darkness uses one more hymn text to recapitulate the themes of the piece and celebrate its completion.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021, 6:30 PM ET

Myths and Hymns - CHAPTER ONE: FLIGHT

Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel

Additional lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh

Orchestrations by Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence

MasterVoices

Ted Sperling, ​Artistic Director and Conductor​

Prometheus

Anderson & Roe, piano duo

Greg Anderson, arranger and director

Saturn Returns: the Flight

MasterVoices

Joshua Henry, soloist

Ted Sperling, director

Icarus

MasterVoices

Mykal Kilgore, soloist (Icarus)

Norm Lewis, soloist (Daedalus)

Sammi Cannold, director

Lucy Mackinnon, designer

Migratory V

MasterVoices

Julia Bullock, soloist

Renée Fleming, soloist

Kelli O'Hara, soloist

Lear deBessonet, director

Danny Mefford, co-creator

Yazmany Arboleda, co-creator and illustrator

Cloud Chatanda, animation

Pegasus

Jose Llana, soloist (Bellerophon)

Capathia Jenkins, soloist (Pegasus)

Elizabeth Stanley, soloist (Gadfly)

Ted Sperling, director

Steven Kellogg, illustrations

Jesus, the Mighty Conqueror

MasterVoices

Take 6, soloists

Mark Kibble, arranger

Khristian Dentley, director

Wednesday, February 24, 2021, 6:30 PM ET

Myths and Hymns - CHAPTER TWO: WORK

Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel

Additional lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh

Orchestrations by Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence

MasterVoices

Ted Sperling,​ ​Artistic Director and Conductor

Down and Up and Over and Over

Children of the Heavenly King

At the Sounding

Build a Bridge

Sisyphus

Life is but a Dream

Every Poodle

Wednesday, April 14, 2021, 6:30PM ET

Myths and Hymns - CHAPTER THREE: LOVE

Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel

Orchestrations by Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence

MasterVoices

Ted Sperling,​ ​Artistic Director and Conductor​

Lonely

Hero & Leander

Come to Jesus

How Can I Lose You?

Wednesday, May 26, 2021, 6:30 PM ET

Myths and Hymns - CHAPTER FOUR: FAITH

Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel

Orchestrations by Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence

MasterVoices

Ted Sperling,​ ​Artistic Director and Conductor

​The Great Highway

There's a Land

There's a Shout

Awaiting You

Saturn Returns: the Return

Light After Darkness (Encore)

Details of MasterVoices' 2020-21 season can be found at mastervoices.org.

For more information, visit mastervoices.org.


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