Gloria Musicae Presents “Barnum’s Bird”
With the Gloria Musicae Singers, State College of Florida Chamber Choir and Four Sensational Soloists
April 3 at Neel Performing Arts Center
April 5 at Venice Performing Arts Center
Gloria Musicae’s 37th season continues with the Florida premiere of “Barnum’s Bird,” composer Libby Larsen’s inventive chronicle of the relationship between pioneering showman P.T. Barnum and Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind.
“Libby Larsen has come up with a way to make contemporary opera both musically current and accessible to the average audience.” – The Wall Street Journal
“The story of Jenny Lind, a hardheaded businesswoman and a world-class artist, and P. T. Barnum, an equally hardheaded businessman and a world-class showman, is a compelling musical drama. It is also an extraordinary vehicle to gain insight into ourselves as lovers of art and consumers of entertainment. It is the story of art, artists, and the human soul.” — Libby Larsen
(Sarasota, FL) Gloria Musicae’s 37th season continues with the Florida premiere of “Barnum’s Bird,” composer Libby Larsen’s operatic probe into the uneasy struggle between art and entertainment, April 3, 7 p.m., at Neel Performing Arts Center at the State College of Florida, 5840 26th Street West, Bradenton; and April 5, 7 p.m., at the Venice Performing Arts Center, 1 Indian Avenue, Venice. Larsen’s inspired score chronicles the groundbreaking relationship between pioneering showman and promoter P.T. Barnum and the “Swedish Nightingale,” singer Jenny Lind, an artist and also a savvy businesswoman in her own right. The performance, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Holt, features, soprano Jenny Kim-Godfrey in the role of Jenny Lind, tenor Glenn Steven Allen as P.T. Barnum, mezzo-soprano Robyn Rocklein and baritone Luis González, Gloria Musicae Singers and the State College of Florida Chamber Choir. In addition to the two concerts, composer, Libby Larsen will be a guest commentator for The Ringling’s “Ringling ViewPoint,” March 19, 10:30 a.m., at the Historic Asolo Theatre, and is also a guest for SILL’s Musical Mondays,” March 21, hosted by June LeBell and Joseph Holt. Tickets to the concerts are $30 at the door; $25 in advance. Student tickets, available at the door with ID, are $5. For tickets and info, visit www.gloriamusicae.org or call 941-387-6046.
One of America’s most performed and prolific contemporary composers, Libby Larsen (born in 1950) has amassed a catalogue of more than 500 works spanning virtually every genre, including intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas. Her music has been praised for its dynamic, deeply inspired, and vigorous contemporary American spirit. The composer is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world.
“Libby Larsen’s love of musical and verbal sounds, and the rhythms of language, shines throughout this piece,” says Joseph Holt, artistic director of Gloria Musicae. “All of these elements are beautifully evident in her original score, which also cleverly incorporates period pieces written especially for Jenny Lind.” He adds that the work also features such treasured arias as “Largo al Factotum” from the “Barber of Seville,” “Casta Diva” from Bellini’s “Norma” and “Hear Ye, Israel,” from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.”
The idea of an opera focused on Jenny Lind’s 1850-51 American tour first came to Larsen in 1995, when she read a letter written by the Swedish opera singer, known as the “Swedish Nightingale,” to Harriet Beecher Stowe. Showman P.T. Barnum had arduously pursued Lind with a business proposition to come to America for a 150-concert tour. Lind finally agreed to the tour, stipulating a monetary guarantee of $150,000 (worth $1 million today). After setting aside a reserve to support herself and her family, the singer donated most of her earnings to charity. Barnum, on the other hand, created a lucrative merchandising phenomenon, attaching Lind’s name to cakes, cigars and soap and forever changing the face of art and how it’s marketed.
“As an artist myself, I am intensely interested in the intersection of art and marketing,” writes Larsen in her notes on this work. “I wonder why it seems to be difficult for Americans to define art by its own value and merit. I wonder why arts organizations must so often rely on entertainment value in order to entice an audience to attend their performances of abstract art. I worry about the frustration of artists who are asked to create art which has as its end a certain definition of entertainment.”
In addition to the Gloria Musicae Singers, the production features the State College of Florida Chamber Choir and four acclaimed soloists. Soprano Jenny Kim-Godfrey (Jenny Lind), is rapidly gaining notoriety for her “nightingale tone” and as “an invigorating stage animal and gifted recitalist.” Tenor Glenn Seven Allen (P.T. Barnum), is garnering critical acclaim on opera and concert stages throughout the United States and has been hailed by Opera News as an “Edwardian matinee idol, giving by far the most detailed dramatic performance.” Mezzo-soprano Robyn Rocklein and baritone Luis González complete the cast.
Gloria Musicae concludes its season with a “Patriotic Spectacular,” its annual July 4th celebration of American composers and the American spirit July 4, 2016, 4:30 p.m., at First United Methodist Church in Sarasota.
The Gloria Musicae Singers are also partnering with the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota in a number of concerts this season, including two tributes to the music of Rogers and Hammerstein, in March, at the North Port Performing Arts Center and in May at the Historic Asolo Theater.
For more information about Gloria Musicae, visit www.GloriaMusicae.org.
About Gloria Musicae
Gloria Musicae celebrates choral music through innovative performances. The critically acclaimed group, the Gloria Musicae Singers, under the artistic direction of Dr. Joseph Holt, performs a repertoire spanning four centuries, and includes orchestral works, intimate madrigals, church motets, folk songs, close-harmony jazz, and Broadway show music. The ensemble also specializes in premiere performances of lesser-known choral works, particularly music by living American composers. The Gloria Musicae Singers has performed premieres by René Clausen, Dick Hyman, Robert Levin, Gwyneth Walker, and James Grant, along with the premiere of a new edition of a rarely heard score by Rossini. For more information about Gloria Musicae, visit www.gloriamusicae.org.