Leonard Bernstein Centennial

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 20, 2019
4:30 PM
Donor Gates Open
5:00 PM
Public Gates Open
8:00 PM
Concert Starts

Tickets: $90 / $25
Lawn: $15


Bernstein:      Mass


About The Artist

Hundreds of artists on stage, from the CSO to the Highland Park High School Marching Band

Paulo Szot


From Ravinia Backstage Blog: Highland Park High School Marching Band Ready to Kick Some Mass

Program Notes

  • Tonight’s presentation of Mass is being taped for national broadcast in 2020. Following the tremendous audience response to last year’s premier performance—the Chicago Tribune named it one of the top 10 musical events of 2018—work quickly began on bringing as much of the cast and creative team back as possible for an encore. Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman, who brought together all those artists, recently told the Tribune, “It just felt like it was the right thing to bring back because it was so good, but also because it’s a mysterious piece to a lot of people. Just letting folks know what it was all about takes some time.” With a recording preserving the performance, even more people will have a chance to see a definitive vision of Bernstein’s masterpiece.
  • As the story of Mass unfolds, members of the Street Chorus find themselves in an existential quandary, wondering how they can believe in and coexist with a god and a world that are seemingly blind to their plights. They address these social issues in the form of “letters.” As Bernstein was focused on the ills of early-’70s America in these letters, Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman saw the opportunity for not only the cast to give contemporary commentary, but also the students of Ravinia’s Reach Teach Play education programs. The Mass Letters Project, a companion book for this performance, shares what’s on the minds of today’s young people as they look at the issues facing our world, our country, their community or school, or their families.


  • 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 245 people onstage, including the CSO (60), the Highland Park High School Marching Band (40), the Vocality chorus (80) 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!
  • Overseeing the CSO in Mass—as well as Ravinia’s multi-year Leonard Bernstein 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 and, by extension, the man who composed it. “For me, it’s an apex of Bernstein—not only the composer, but the community activist, the politically conscious citizen of the world,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “Maybe that’s why I love it, because it’s about him, not just as the great musical genius he was, but as a human being.”
  • 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.
  • Kevin Newbury has been the stage director for productions of Mass with Marin Alsop not only at Ravinia, but also previously at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and he recently directed performances of Bernstein’s Candide with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has earned acclaim as the director of the premiere operas Fellow Travelers in Cincinnati, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs in Santa Fe, and Bel Canto in Chicago. He returns to Cincinnati next year to direct the premiere of Castor & Patience by Gregory Spears, the composer of Fellow Travelers.
  • 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 first Broadway appearance, in South Pacific opposite Kelli O’Hara. He recently headlined in Street Scene with Patricia Racette, whom he will reunite with at Ravinia in August as the stars of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti.

Park Details

Performance shown on lawn video screen

The video screens flanking the Pavilion stage will not be in use for tonight's concert so that they will not interfere with the camera crew taping the concert for a national television special, which will air in 2020. The giant video screen on the lawn will broadcast the concert live in its entirety.

Jamie Bernstein, Leonard’s oldest child and author of the best-selling memoir Famous Father Girl, will be available to sign copies of her book before the concert in the information booth in front of the Martin Theatre.

Concert Information

By popular demand, Ravinia’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, named one of the best concerts of 2018 by the Chicago Tribune, will be given an encore performance featuring conductor Marin Alsop and Tony Award-winning baritone Paulo Szot, who once again heads up the hundreds of artists onstage, from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to the Highland Park High School Marching Band.

Announcing the Chicago-area professional premiere of the work last summer, Ravinia president and CEO Welz Kauffman called Mass “a giant, exhilarating work that was misunderstood in its day, and audiences need to hear it”—the Tribune ’s Howard Reich agreed in his review, proclaiming it “simply quintessential, stylistically unbound, anything-goes Bernstein, presented on the grandest scale possible.” Don’t let the title fool you; this exciting musical theater piece is more like Hair than church!

"Simply quintessential, stylistically unbound, anything—goes Bernstein, presented on the grandest scale possible."—Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

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