LE CHEVALIER brings the life and music of an 18th century black composer to the stage February 18-20
In partnership with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts and Concert Theater Works, Music of the Baroque presents the Midwest premiere of “The Chevalier,” a new concert play written and directed by Bill Barclay.
“Le Chevalier” recounts the life and music of the 18th century black composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, master composer, virtuoso violinist, friend of Mozart, music teacher of Marie-Antoinette, the best fencer in Europe, general of the first black regiment in Europe and a crusader for the abolition of slavery. Adopting a “concert theater” approach, featuring the interaction of four actors with excerpts from orchestra and chamber music, Barclay weaves Bologna’s remarkable history into his own compositions, ultimately confusing the French Revolution with the social and political unrest of today’s society.
“The Chevalier” stars Brendon Elliott as violinist Bologna and four accomplished actors including Barclay as Choderlos de Laclos; RJ Foster as Joseph Bologna, Knight of St. George; Merritt Janson as Marie Antoinette and David Joseph as Mozart.
“The Knight” features music by Joseph Bologna (1745-1799) with additional music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Christoph Willibald Glück (1714-1787). Dame Jane Glover will conduct the music of the Baroque Orchestra at the three Chicago-area venues in selections showcasing the breadth of Bologna’s compositional output, from violin concertos to symphonies, string quartets to ballets. The musical arrangements are by Barclay. Other members of the art/design team will be announced at a later date.
Performances of “Le Chevalier” will take place on Saturday, February 19, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. at the North Shore Performing Arts Center and on Sunday, February 20, 2022 at 8 p.m. at the Symphony Center at 8 p.m. A free community performance will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 18, 2022 at the Kehrein Center for the Arts in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. Tickets for this show were made possible through the generous support of the Zell Family Foundation.
The year is 1778 and a bedridden, bankrupt Mozart is transported to the Chevalier’s kitchen. Despite obvious differences, these two geniuses forge a friendship as equals as they navigate the new racial politics of a city hostile to outsiders. At the same time, the Chevalier’s weekly music lessons with Marie Antoinette associate him with the monarchy at a time of civil unrest, and he must choose between his loyalty to the crown and the violent pursuit of abolition as the Revolution ignites France.
“In ‘The Knight,’ Bill Barclay has created concert drama that resonates with the times,” says Declan McGovern, Executive Director of Baroque Music. “It tells the story and features the music of a composer of color who fought injustice in the 18th century, but whose story speaks just as strongly in today’s changing world. At Music of the Baroque , we are thrilled to team up with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts and the Kehrein Center for the Arts to ensure that as many people as possible, from all corners of our community, have the opportunity to discover the remarkable life and music of Joseph Bologna. »
“Baroque music is such a valuable part of the performance offering at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie,” said the Centre’s Managing Director, Michael Pauken. “I am thrilled that we are able to collaborate on this exciting and important project. ‘The Knight’ will sound and look great on our stage and I know our audiences will enjoy learning more about this fascinating historical figure.”
“Le Chevalier” is also closely linked to the promotion of anti-racism in concert music. The production raises money for the Sphinx National Alliance for Audition Support, which helps young musicians of color with the cost of auditioning for jobs in American orchestras. Commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2018, “The Chevalier” premiered in 2019 during the inaugural season of the Tanglewood Learning Institute and was a 2020 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference finalist and recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts Grant in 2021.
“We are thrilled to join Music of the Baroque and our other broadcasters in sharing this opportunity for audiences to learn more about the life and music of Joseph Bologna,” said CSOA President Jeff Alexander. . “His significant contributions to orchestral music are something to celebrate and we look forward to welcoming this program to the Symphony Center.”
“The Chevalier,” written and directed by Bill Barclay, will be played at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 19 at the North Shore Center in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Blvd. and 8 p.m. on Sunday, February 20 at the Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.
Individual concert tickets cost between $25 and $100 and are available now at the box offices of the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts (northshorecenter.org) and the Symphony Center (cso.org). Discounts for groups, students and seniors are available.
Tickets are now available for the community performance on February 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kehrein Center for the Arts, located at 5628 W. Washington Blvd. in Chicago. Tickets are free, but reservations are required. For tickets or more information, visit baroque.org/chevalier-austin.