A prodigious and prolific conductor, educator, humanitarian and composer spanning classical music and Broadway, Leonard Bernstein was a larger than life genius who personified American music. Dartmouth plays its part in a worldwide celebration of the centennial of Bernstein’s birthday with a bonanza of musical events this fall at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.
The fun starts Thursday, October 11, 9 pm, in the Top of the Hop, with “Dartmouth Opera Lab Sings Bernstein,” an evening of beguiling Bernstein opera, oratorio and musical theater sung by international opera star Daniel Belcher, baritone, rising artist Amy Owens, soprano, and a combined chorus of the Dartmouth College Glee Club and the Hanover High School Footnotes. Selections include items from Bernstein’s Candide and West Side Story – which have the storytelling and popular motifs of musical theater along with lyricism and vocal demands of opera. Known for his “fearless musicality and dynamic stage presence” (Classical Singer), Belcher has embodied more than over 70 characters in opera, including Prior Walter in the opera of Angels in America and John Brooke in Little Women.
With music direction by Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra Director Filippo Ciabatti and staging by opera director Peter Webster, the Top of the Hop will be transformed into a cabaret setting for the evening, with refreshments and immersive projections. The fun continues with sounds by DJ P.J. O’Sullivan. The event is free and open to the public and is the first event of the Hop’s new Thursday Night Live Series.
As part of this Dartmouth visit, Belcher will work with student singers in a masterclass on October 11, 4:30 to 6:30 pm, in the Hop’s Faulkner Recital Hall. The public is welcome to observe free of charge.
Below, Belcher performs the role of Prior Walter in the premiere of Angels in America in 2004.
Bernstein’s instrumental work and influence is the focus on Saturday, October 20, in Spaulding Auditorium, when the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble presents Bernstein@100. Featuring the big, juicy sound of this expert concert band, it’s a program of works by and inspired by Bernstein: Awayday by Adam Gorb (b. 1958), which Gorb describes as “an homage to the great days of the Broadway musical with its irresistible brashness and irrepressible high spirits”; Dance Movements by Philip Sparke (b. 1951), full of dance rhythms and harmonic color that brings Bernstein to mind; and from Bernstein himself, the incredible Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.
Below, Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Simón Bolivar in Symphonic Dances at the BBC Proms in 2007.
Still more Bernstein instrumental music–both his compositions and his conducting–is in store on Saturday, November 10, 8 pm, in Spaulding Auditorium in a concert by the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra plays Bernstein’s Candide Overture and West Side Story Medley along with Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler, a composer whose works Bernstein was particularly identified with. The program is rounded out by Romance for trombone and orchestra by William Grant Still (1895-1978), who broke multiple Jim Crow barriers to contribute marvelous music to the American classical music canon. DSO member Charles Johnson ’19 plays the trombone solo. DSO conductor Ciabatti offers background and highlights in a free pre-concert talk on Saturday, November 10, 7 pm, Faulkner Recital Hall, Hopkins Center.
Below, Bernstein conducts Mahler’s Fifth in 1972.