Strathmore Presents IRON & COAL
Strathmore and Beth Morrison Projects will present the world premiere of Iron & Coal, a multi-media rock opera by composer/lyricist Jeremy Schonfeld and director Kevin Newbury, in the Music Center at Strathmore on Thursday and Friday, May 3 and 4, 2018 at 8 p.m. An adaptation of Schonfeld's rock concept album of the same name, Iron & Coal reflects on the true story of his father, Gustav, who survived the horrors of the Auschwitz concentration camp as a 10-year-old boy during World War II, his struggle to cope with that trauma and lingering survivor's guilt, and the determination to rebuild his life. Lush arrangements of rock-infused anthems are merged with traditional Jewish prayers and classical music provide the score to Gustav's harrowing story, with a concurrent storyline that shares his son's perspective as the child of a Holocaust survivor. Using passages from Gustav's memoir, Absence of Closure, projection, animation, and more than 200 musicians on stage-including a rock band, chamber orchestra, and choirs-Schonfeld creates an immersive experience both visceral and uplifting as he pays tribute to enduring family bonds and the ripple effect that profound experiences can have across generations.
For more information or to purchase tickets, call (301) 581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.
Iron & Coal represents Strathmore's commitment to shepherd large-scale original productions to the stage-in 2016 Strathmore produced the premiere of I Am Anne Hutchinson/I Am Harvey Milk by acclaimed Broadway lyricist Andrew Lippa and starring Broadway icon Kristin Chenoweth, followed in 2017 by the ambitious Wynton Marsalis masterwork All Rise, which hadn't been produced in over a decade.
"Partnering with artists on new work on a very large scale speaks to our commitment to foster programming that is as distinctive and magnificent as the venue itself," said Strathmore's Artistic Director, Joi Brown. "It also demonstrates our understanding that the performing arts play an essential role in elevating our social conscience, and we take great pride in supporting work that helps us reflect on history and bring fresh perspective to stories of strength and resilience."
In Iron & Coal, Schonfeld tells his father's traumatic, if triumphant, story and its far-reaching impacts on his family. Gustav was torn from his home in Munkacs, Hungary, as a boy and carted off by cattle car to Auschwitz, where he was held from 1944-1945. Alongside his father, Gustav witnessed atrocities at the hands of the Nazis and lost many loved ones-including his 7-month-old brother. Miraculously, Gustav and his parents survived the Holocaust and were liberated, eventually starting a new life in the United States. Gustav thrived in America, building a family and becoming a respected doctor and scholar. His memoir, however, captures the lasting impact that his experience at Auschwitz had throughout his entire life.
Iron & Coal is a tribute to Gustav that reaches across time to tell his story through three characters-Old Gustav (played by Rinde Eckert), Young Gustav (played by Lincoln Clauss), and Jeremy, portraying himself for this performance. Three intersecting storylines explore Gustav's real-life experiences as a child, the profound impact they had on him as a man, and how those experiences shaped Jeremy, as the child of a Holocaust survivor. Lead vocalists are joined on stage by New York chamber music group Contemporaneous and members of Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras of Strathmore, with choral groups The Alexandria Harmonizers, Young Artists of America, and Strathmore Children's Chorus.
Schonfeld initially distilled his father's legacy and his own complicated feelings about his family history into the rock concept album Iron & Coal in 2011. Gustav heard rough cuts, but on the day it was being mastered, he passed away-never hearing the final product. Well received, the album was performed during the European Maccabi Games in Vienna and went to be nominated for several Amadeus Awards, the Austrian equivalent of the Grammys.
Schonfeld was moved to further refine the music and introduce new mediums to create a living, breathing testament to his father. From 2012-2014 he collaborated with choreographers and visual artists to move the project toward a full multimedia theatrical presentation. In December 2016, Schonfeld staged a chamber size production of Iron & Coal at National Sawdust in New York and engaged theater, opera, and film director Kevin Newbury to helm the project. Strathmore's Artistic Director Joi Brown was in attendance.
"The National Sawdust performance had so many wonderful moments," said Brown. "It was then that I understood the power of the piece as a theatrical event and how the elements combined to create an inspiring and compelling onstage journey."
In 2017, the creative team implemented a story narrative that draws excerpts directly from Gustav's memoir, Absence of Closure, and engaged two vocalists to work alongside Schonfeld. The piece became whole. The performance at Strathmore is the world premiere of this fully realized work.
Strathmore is grateful for the support of Iron & Coal promotional partners the Defiant Requiem Foundation and the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, as well as media partner Washington Jewish Week.
About Jeremy Schonfeld, Composer/Lyricist
Jeremy Schonfeld is a celebrated singer-songwriter, composer, lyricist, actor, producer, mentor, and teacher. His concept album, Iron & Coal, produced in Vienna, Austria, with producing partners Beat4Feet (Martin Gellner and Werner Stranka), was nominated for several Amadeus Awards. Previously, Schonfeld created the album 37 Notebooks featuring vocalists Adam Pascal, Julia Murney, Tracie Thoms, Amy Spanger, Lauren Kennedy, and Donnie Keher. "House of Love," recorded by Shoshana Bean and featuring the Broadway Dreams Chorus for 37 Notebooks, is consistently used in many diverse charitable campaigns including Defying Inequality and Rockers on Broadway.
About Kevin Newbury, Director
Kevin Newbury is a theater, opera, film, and event director. He has directed more than 60 original productions and his work has been presented by many opera companies, festivals, and symphonies, including Park Avenue Armory, Carnegie Hall, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Barcelona Liceu, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Minnesota Opera, San Francisco Symphony, L'Opera de Montreal, PROTOTYPE Festival, Urban Arias (D.C.), Opera Philadelphia, Seattle Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, and Ireland's Wexford Festival. Newbury is especially committed to developing and directing new work. He has directed more than two dozen world premiere operas and plays. Recent highlights include Fellow Travelers (Gregory Spears, composer; Greg Pierce, libretto) at Cincinnati Opera; Todd Almond's Kansas City Choir Boy (Beth Morrison Projects, tour producer) at PROTOTYPE Festival, Boston's American Repertory Theater, Los Angeles' Center Theatre Group, and Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts; O Columbia (Gregory Spears, composer; Royce Vavrek, librettist) at Houston Grand Opera; The Manchurian Candidate (Kevin Puts, composer; Mark Campbell, librettist); Doubt (Douglas J. Cuomo, composer; John Patrick Shanley, librettist) at Minnesota Opera; and Bel Canto (Jimmy López, composer; Nilo Cruz, librettist) at Lyric Opera of Chicago, which was broadcast on PBS' Great Performances and nominated for Best World Premiere as part of the 2016 International Opera Awards.
Strathmore presents and produces exemplary visual and performing arts programs for diverse audiences; creates dynamic arts education experiences; and nurtures creative ideas and conversations that advance the future of the arts. The organization's hallmark is the Music Center at Strathmore, with a 1,976-seat concert hall and education complex. Its core campus also includes the historic Mansion at Strathmore, which features an intimate Music Room and art galleries. Most recently, Strathmore opened AMP, a 250-seat cabaret-style venue located just up Rockville Pike from the core campus in the burgeoning Pike District of Montgomery County. Strathmore's signature education, mission-driven programs include the Strathmore Student Concerts and the Artist in Residence program.
About Beth Morrison Projects
Founded in 2006 to support the work of living composers and their multimedia collaborators, Beth Morrison Projects encourages risk-taking, creating a structure for new work that is unique to the artist and allows them to feel safe to experiment and push boundaries. Noted as "the edge of innovation" (Opera News), Beth Morrison Projects is a "contemporary opera mastermind" (Los Angeles Times) and "its own genre" (Opera News). Projects have been performed in numerous premier venues around the world including Brooklyn Academy Of Music, Disney Hall, The Barbican, Lincoln Center, The Walker Art Center, The Beijing Music Festival, The Holland Festival, and more. Current and upcoming projects include works by composers Mohammed Fairouz, Michael Gordon, Ted Hearne, Mikael Karlsson, David Lang, David T. Little, Keeril Makan, Missy Mazzoli, Nico Muhly, Elvis Perkins, Paola Prestini, Ellen Reid, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Jeremy Schonfeld, and more, with directors Mallory Catlett, James Darrah, Rachel Dickstein, Lee Sunday Evans, Daniel Fish, Patricia McGregor, Kevin Newbury, Jay Scheib, and Ashley Tata.