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Free April 28 concert features premiere of Levy’s Atonement

On April 28, the Boris Lurie Art Foundation will present a free concert at New York’s historic Temple Emanu-El. On the program is the world premiere of Marvin David Levy’s oratorio Atonement, a reworking of three of Levy’s previous pieces that have never before been performed in New York City.  Exploring three critical moments of Jewish history – “Holocaust”, “Inquisition”, and “Masada”, Atonement will be performed by Grammy Award-winning soprano Ana María Martínez and tenor Richard Crawley with narration by Mario M. Cuomo, former governor of the state of New York and father of current governor Andrew M. Cuomo.  Eugene Kohn, who boasts an extensive recorded discography with Plácido Domingo, will lead a full choir and orchestra for the concert, which will be filmed for future television broadcasts on dates and networks to be announced. Full concert details follow below.

Winner of two Guggenheim Fellowships and two Prix de Rome awards, Marvin David Levy (b.1932) is best known for his opera Mourning Becomes Electra, which debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1967 and was embraced by Leonard Bernstein, who called it “a tremendous achievement.”  Atonement represents a re-working of three pieces by Levy that explore catastrophic episodes in Jewish history.  The opening movement, “Holocaust”, a short soundscape for chorus, concerns the most recent historical event, and is especially poignant since the visual artist Boris Lurie (1924-2008), who co-founded the NO!art movement and in whose name the foundation was established, was himself a Holocaust survivor.

Atonement’s middle movement, “Inquisition”, originally titled Canto de los marranos (“Song of the Crypto Jews”), depicts the predicament of late-15th-century Spanish Jews. Forced to convert to Christianity, they were expelled from their country when it was discovered that they still practiced Judaism in secret.  A Naxos recording of the Canto prompted Opera News to admire “the thoughtful dramatic contours of the piece and the yearning beauty of the vocal lines,” and the magazine praised soprano Ana María Martínez for her “sympathetic and impressive account.”  Now, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to hear the lyric soprano’s rendition of Canto (as “Inquisition”) in live performance, as well as narration from the Honorable Mario M. Cuomo, who is featured in the same movement.

Masada”, Atonement’s finale, was originally written for the great American tenor Richard Tucker, who premiered it with the National Symphony Orchestra under Antal Dorati in 1973.  The April 28 performance showcases the up-and-coming tenor Richard Crawley.  The movement’s title refers to the ancient Jewish fortress on the shore of the Dead Sea in which 960 men, women, and children held out for three years against Roman attack in the first century A.D.  When the Roman invasion was imminent, they proudly chose mass suicide, leaving their enemies only a barren victory.  Their story was recorded by the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus and forms the textual framework for Levy’s oratorio.  According to the composer, “Here we remember an uncommon moment when the vanquished may be counted among history’s ultimate survivors, rendering the epic of Masada a shining metaphor for us all.”

Temple Emanu-El, the majestic setting for the Atonement premiere, is the largest Jewish house of worship in the world and one of the city’s preeminent architectural, cultural, and religious landmarks.  It is located on 65th Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Commenting on the impetus for this free concert, Gertrude Stein, President of the Boris Lurie Art Foundation, explains:

“It was one of the central missions of Boris Lurie’s art never to let people forget the horrors of the Holocaust, so that something this terrible could never happen again.  By presenting a free concert of Marvin David Levy’s Atonement, the Foundation is not only keeping alive the memory of the Shoah but also giving life to a great musical work that deserves to be heard in New York City.”

Dedicated to reflecting Lurie’s life, work, and focus as a social visionary in art and culture, the Boris Lurie Art Foundation is presenting the April 28 concert to coincide with the largest exhibition of the artist’s works to date.  This will take place in New York City’s Chelsea Art Museum (March 26 – May 15), marking the first time many of the works from Lurie’s estate have been exhibited.  Lurie’s work features highly charged political and social imagery, as in the famously controversial Railroad Collage (1959), which superimposed a pin-up girl onto a photograph of heaped concentration camp victims, juxtaposing consumerism with the Holocaust.  

Boris Lurie was born in 1924 in Leningrad. At the age of 16 he was taken prisoner by the Nazis and imprisoned for four years at Buchenwald and other concentration camps.  His mother and sister perished at the hands of the Nazis, but he and his father survived.  Lurie moved to New York City in 1946 to begin his art career, and he first garnered national attention in 1960 when he and his colleagues Sam Goodman and Stanley Fisher founded the NO!art movement.  The principle aim of NO!art was to bring back into art the subjects of real life, putting it in stark contrast to the two most popular movements of the time: abstract expressionism and pop art.

The Boris Lurie Art Foundation presents:
Thursday, April 28, 7:30pm (doors open at 6.45pm)
Temple Emanu-El, Temple Sanctuary (Fifth Avenue at 65th Street)
Marvin David Levy: Atonement (premiere)
Eugene Kohn, conductor
Richard Crawley, tenor
Ana María Martínez, soprano
The Honorable Mario M. Cuomo, narrator
Free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis (no tickets necessary)
Reserved seating available for press
The concert will last approximately 75 minutes and will be performed without an intermission.

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© 21C Media Group, March 2011



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