CSO: Bernstein's MASS

The Bernstein Event of the Year

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop, conductor
Kevin Newbury, director
Paulo Szot, baritone (Celebrant)
Street Chorus and Altar Children (click to see full list)
Chicago Children’s Choir
Highland Park High School Marching Band
Creative Staff (click to see full list)

Saturday, July 28, 2018
4:30 PM
Donor Gates Open
5:00 PM
Public Gates Open
7:30 PM
Concert Starts

Tickets: $90 / $25
Lawn $10

Dining Availablity For Tonight: Ravinia Market, Lawn BarTree Top and Park View are all open tonight.

About The Artist

Program Notes

  • Mass is subtitled “A Theater Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers.” Despite having one named character, the Celebrant, it has the dimensions of a sprawling Broadway extravaganza, featuring 275 people onstage, including the CSO (60), the Highland Park High School Marching Band (50), the Vocality adult choir (100) and Chicago Children’s Choir (40), two child soloists, and the vocal soloists and dancers of the Street Chorus (22). It is truly a mass-ive undertaking!
  • Leonard Bernstein was commissioned to create Mass for the opening of the Kennedy Center by the late president’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. President Nixon did not attend the premiere, reportedly to let the spotlight be hers for the evening, but also supposedly because he feared the repercussions of being seen supporting what the FBI believed to be coded antiwar messages in its text. Bernstein had long been under FBI surveillance because of his political views, with a file hundreds of pages long.


  • Just a few months before and after Mass opened the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, New York saw the premieres of two theatrical treatments of the Christian gospel: Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the music and lyrics for Godspell, also contributed original lyrics to Mass, Leonard Bernstein’s culture-bending twist on the Catholic mass. Schwartz later found further fame as the composer/lyricist of Wicked.
  • Like Jesus Christ Superstar soon after it, Leonard Bernstein’s Mass was once seen as sacrilegious, twisting the Catholic mass setting with the Jewish tradition of “arguing with God” as the central Celebrant and the cast of other vocalists openly question their faith at the same moment they should be embracing its strength.
  • Overseeing the CSO in Mass—as well as the rest of this first year of Ravinia’s Leonard Bernstein centennial celebration—is Marin Alsop, Bernstein’s last protégé and his only female one, who has been a leading light in revitalizing the world’s view of Mass, creating a Grammy-nominated recording of it a decade ago. “Political volatility, unpopular [military conflict] seemingly without end, and our ongoing struggle as individuals to find faith and spirituality in contemporary society—this was the backdrop for Bernstein’s portrayal of a modern-day crisis of faith,” she wrote. “And while the music and the text may have less shock value to our contemporary ears, the message of Mass has enduring significance.”
  • Kevin Newbury has been the stage director for productions of Mass with Marin Alsop at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and he has recently been the acclaimed director of the new operas Fellow Travelers in Cincinnati, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs in Santa Fe, and Bel Canto in Chicago.
  • Like Leonard Bernstein’s scores, baritone Paulo Szot (the Celebrant) effortlessly combines and goes between musical styles, from star turns at the Metropolitan Opera and across France, the Netherlands, and his native Brazil to winning a Tony for his only Broadway appearance, in South Pacific opposite Kelli O’Hara.

Park Details

Pre-Concert Event
Join Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman, Bernstein biographer Humphrey Burton, Jamie Bernstein, and Ravinia Bernstein Centennial music curator Marin Alsop for a Pre-Concert Discussion about Mass in the Pavilion at 6:00 p.m.


Featured Sponsor: