It was over a year ago that Jeffrey Bernstein, Artistic Director of the Pasadena Master Chorale (PMC) first began developing “Life of Mozart,” a musical and theatrical celebration of a composer described by Pyotr Tchaikovsky as “the highest, the culminating point that beauty has attained in the sphere of music.” But once Bernstein decided to step down from the podium so that he could also focus on the staging of the production – which will receive its World Premiere on January 8, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church in Pasadena – it took him but a matter of moments to decide whom to ask to take his place.
“Jorge Mester has an extraordinary gift for the dramatic music of opera and oratorio,” explains Bernstein, who served from 2005 to 2010 as Assistant Conductor of the Pasadena Symphony – an orchestra Mester led for over 25 years until last spring. “And, over the years, he and I have had many conversations about his special affinity for Mozart. I know Jorge will bring electricity and fire to the music of the Requiem in this newly dramatized context. I’m also especially proud of the fact that the Pasadena Master Chorale is giving Southern California audiences a chance once again to hear Jorge perform.”
“Life of Mozart” will not be Bernstein’s first collaboration with Mester, who currently serves as Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra and the Naples Philharmonic as well as Conductor Laureate of the prestigious Aspen Music Festival. To date, Bernstein has prepared choruses for the Maestro over a dozen times – including, most recently, the Pasadena Master Chorale in performances with the Pasadena Symphony of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in January 2009, Debussy’s Nocturnes and Holst’s The Planets in October 2009 and the Mozart Requiem this past March.
For Mester, “Life of Mozart” – which will include excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem as well as two works, the overture from La Clemenza di Tito and Ave Verum Corpus, written during the composer’s final year – is a welcome addition to this list.
"I jumped at the chance to work with the Pasadena Master Chorale again,” says Mester, a sought-after conductor in opera houses worldwide, including the New York City Opera, the Sydney Opera, the Spoleto Festival and the Washington Opera. “They sing with incredible precision, musicality and spirit, inspired by their gifted conductor Jeffrey Bernstein. I’ve enjoyed our collaborations over the years, and it's always a treat to make music with these long-standing friends of mine."
Joining Mester and his “friends” at “Life of Mozart” is actor Dan Selon, who will portray Mozart by sharing excerpts from Mozart’s many letters and writings. Krystle Casey, soprano, and Arthur Rishi, tenor, and baritone Abdiel Gonzalez will appear as soloists as well. PMC and its guest artists, Bernstein stresses, will only perform those parts of the Requiem actually written by Mozart, with none of the material completed by others.
“ ‘Life of Mozart’ is an intimate and emotional portrait of a dearly loved composer who has been the subject of much speculation, especially since the success of both the play and film ‘Amadeus,’” says Bernstein. “But the evening will also celebrate a musical legend of our own – an extraordinary talent who devoted over 25 years of his career to enhancing the cultural and musical life of our community. All of us at PMC are thrilled to be back at work with Jorge, and I know our audience will be equally pleased to experience his artistry once again. Mozart and Mester: for music lovers, it’s a magical combination.”
Tickets for “Life of Mozart” are reasonably priced at $25 and may be purchased by visiting the Pasadena Master Chorale’s website, www.pasadenamasterchorale.org, through any Chorale member, or at the door. Complete details on concerts, ticket prices and venue locations can be found on the website as well. Recorded information is available by phone at 626.208.0009.
First Congregational Church is located at 464 East Walnut Street in Pasadena.