New Philharmonic puts on 'West Side Story in Concert' as season finale on April 9-10

  • Maestro Kirk Muspratt will lead the New Philharmonic in its season finale, "West Side Story in Concert" this weekend at the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn.

    Maestro Kirk Muspratt will lead the New Philharmonic in its season finale, "West Side Story in Concert" this weekend at the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn. Courtesy of the McAninch Arts Center

 
 
Updated 4/4/2022 11:47 PM

"It is the artists of the world, the feelers and the thinkers who will ultimately save us; who can articulate, educate, defy, insist, sing and shout the big dreams," said Maestro Leonard Bernstein. The music that he wrote for "West Side Story," a musical that tells a tragic love story and focuses on social problems, is perhaps his best-known composition.

New Philharmonic, the only professional orchestra based in DuPage County, will share the sounds of this beautiful musical with its audience and to conclude its 2021-2022 season with "West Side Story in Concert."

 

This concert will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 10, at the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn.

This unforgettable program will feature guest artists soprano Brooklyn Snow, tenor Matthew Greenblatt, mezzo-soprano Kate Tombaugh, and baritone Evan Bravos, along with a chorus of eight singers. Together with the musicians of New Philharmonic, the soloists will present the best loved songs and music from this famous Tony and Academy Award-winning musical. Michael Weber, artistic director of Porchlight Music Theatre, will lead a free post-performance discussion following each performance. Bjarne R. Ullsvik is lead sponsor for these performances of "West Side Story in Concert."

"There's nothing that can lift our spirits more than experiencing our favorite songs from one of our favorite romantic musicals performed by extraordinary artists," said Maestro Muspratt. "Our performance of 'West Side Story in Concert' has all of that, and whether you are a fan of the musical or one of the films, I know you'll find this concert to be something you'll talk about long after the last note has wafted to the heavens."

The original Broadway production took place in 1957. Besides featuring the unforgettable music by Bernstein, this musical is also popular thanks to the talent of Jerome Robbins and unforgettable lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, while being based on a book by Arthur Laurents.

Inspired by Shakespeare's play "Romeo and Juliet," the musical is set in the mid-1950s in a multiracial, blue-collar neighborhood in New York City. It tells about two warring gangs - the Jets led by Riff and the Puerto Rican Sharks led by Bernardo. At a dance, a former Jet, Tony, meets Bernardo's younger sister, Maria, and they immediately fall in love with each other. They begin to meet in secret dreaming about running away. When the Sharks and the Jets plan a rumble, Maria sends Tony to stop it hoping he can end the violence. In the midst of the fight, Bernardo kills Riff. Enraged at the murder of his best friend, Tony picks up Riff's blade and kills Bernardo. At the end Chino, who is another Shark, shoots Tony, who dies in Maria's arms. Maria takes Chino's gun and blames everyone for these three deaths. However, this tragedy leads to the end of the long lasting feud between the gangs.

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Certainly, a concert that is based on a musical with such a complicated story requires highly talented singers perform the roles of the main characters. Fortunately, the selected guest artists fit these roles perfectly, and the New Philharmonic directed by Maestro Muspratt will do its best to underline the brilliance of their voices by providing wonderful orchestral accompaniment.

The role of Maria will be performed by Brooklyn Snow, soprano, who is a native of Beaverton, Oregon. Snow is a rising international artist with extensive performance experience in Europe, Asia, and the United States. She discovered her love for music while living with her family in Hong Kong as a young girl, where she joined a choir, and later in Amsterdam, where she started formal voice lessons at the age of 10. Snow's exposure to multiple cultures, ideologies and languages help her express the feelings of the characters whose parts she performs, and in this case it helps her sing Maria's arias and her duets with other soloists. Besides that, her beautiful, full and extremely colorful voice and passionate artistic expression help her demonstrate all the spectrum of Maria's personality. Snow earned her Master of Music in Vocal Performance from Indiana University, and her Bachelor of Music at the University of Oregon in 2013. She is a finalist in Eugene Opera's Diva Cage Match Competition.

The role of Tony will be performed by Matthew Greenblatt, tenor, who is a native of Port Washington, N.Y. His emotional presentation and captivating voice will help him find the best way to perform Tony's arias and his duets with other soloists. Being husband and wife, Greenblatt and Snow will be able to show all the spectrum of emotions between those two young characters. Greenblatt recently served as Chrisman Studio Artist with Opera Santa Barbara. He sang the role of Gastone in "La Traviata," and study-covering the three lead tenor roles in "La Traviata," "Little Women," and "La fille du régiment." In the summer of 2021, he covered the role of Nemorino in "L'elisir d'amore" with the Southern Illinois Music Festival and performed as the tenor soloist in an outdoor concert series with the New Philharmonic. Honors include finalist in the New York International Vocal Competition, and semi-finalist in the Opera Index Competition. Greenblatt earned his Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from the University of Michigan, and his Master of Music from Mannes.

The role of Anita, Bernardo's girlfriend, will be performed by Kate Tombaugh, mezzo-soprano. Her majestic voice will definitely impress the audience. Last season, she won first place in the Mildred C. Miller International Competition, hosted by Pittsburgh Festival Opera, featuring an all-mezzo edition. This past February, she debuted as the featured soloist in John Corigliano's "Fern Hill" with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. Tombaugh trained as a young artist in the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Artist program, as a Gerdine Artist with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and as a Resident Artist with Utah Opera. Additionally, she was a Stern Fellow with the LA-based Songfest and performed in the Opera Studio at AIMS in Graz, Austria. Tombaugh holds a Master of Music, Opera/Voice from University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, and dual undergraduate degrees in English literature and vocal performance from Illinois Wesleyan University. She is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit arts organization Poco a Poco.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The role of Riff will be performed by Evan Bravos, baritone. His energetic voice, excellent vocal technique and bright artistic presentation will help him find the best way to present this character. Bravos made his professional debut at The Ravinia Festival in the summer of 2019 as Maximilian in Bernstein's "Candide." During the 2020-21 season, he performed in two world premieres: creating the role of Clay in Matthew Reccio/ Royce Vavrek's "The Puppy Episode" with Chicago Opera Theater, and as Claudius for Joseph Summer's "Hamlet" in a co-production between Boston's The Shakespeare Concerts and the Ruse Bulgarian State Opera. Engagements for the 2021-22 season include Le Dancaïre in "Carmen" (Chicago Opera Theater), Handel's "Messiah" (Santa Fe Symphony) and Hannah in Laura Kaminsky's "As One" (Opera Santa Barbara). Bravos studied at Lawrence University Conservatory (Bachelor of Music) and Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music (Master of Music).

With these great singers, the New Philharmonic and Maestro Muspratt will celebrate the beauty of this masterpiece created by Bernstein and Sondheim. "West Side Story in Concert" will highlight the best parts of this musical while having the audience experience the entire depth of this composition. The message of this musical is deep and dramatic, and it teaches us a lot.

"Now I can kill too, because now I have hate," says Maria at the end of the musical, while taking Chino's gun. However, she is unable to bring herself to fire the gun and drops it, crying in grief. Here is a great lesson for all humanity, which is especially important nowadays - don't let hate take you over and create even more hate. Let violence and hate exist only on the stage, and let music make it possible. Let music create peace and beauty, and let it stay this way forever.

For tickets and more information, visit www.atthemac.org/events/west-side-story/ or call (630) 942-4000. Tickets are $59, $57 for seniors. A limited number of $10 tickets are available for students with valid ID. The box office is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. and one hour prior to performance. The McAninch Arts Center is located at 425 Fawell Blvd. on the campus of College of DuPage.

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