The Road of Promise, the oratorio adapted from The Eternal Road by Ed Harsh, will make its U.S. debut at Carnegie Hall on 6 May 2015. The Collegiate Chorale, no strangers to Weill, will do the honors, led by Artistic Director Ted Sperling and augmented by several soloists and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Featured performers include Anthony Dean Griffey in the central role of the Rabbi along with fellow opera singers Mark Delavan, Philip Cutlip, and AJ Glueckert. Rising stars Justin Hopkins, Megan Marino, and Lauren Michelle, all prizewinners in the Lotte Lenya Competition, round out the soloists. Tony Award winner Ron Rifkin will take the speaking role of The Adversary.
The Eternal Road was Weill’s ticket to the United States in 1935, when he arrived along with librettist Franz Werfel and director Max Reinhardt to stage the massive work in New York. It opened on 7 January 1937 and stunned the blasé New York theater world with its opulence, pageantry, and sheer size. The libretto juxtaposed a group of modern European Jews taking shelter in a synagogue under threat from mobs outside with the best-known and most compelling stories from the Old Testament. The Rabbi of the synagogue acts as the link between the modern and ancient worlds, counseling the parishioners and introducing the stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, Jeremiah, et al., which were played out onstage. The costs involved in maintaining the gigantic cast and vast set made it almost impossible to sustain the production, and it closed after about four months. The stage work has been revived only once.
The Road of Promise is a concert work that preserves the majority of the original score and distills the synagogue plot into three characters, the Rabbi, the Adversary, and the Thirteen-Year-Old Boy, who learns of his heritage and faith from the Rabbi and emerges as the new hope for his people. The Rabbi and Biblical characters are sung by soloists with an essential role for a large chorus that can be divided into two parts. The power of the original remains, but the lack of staging apparatus places the oratorio within the capabilities of many orchestras and choruses. The world premiere of the concert work, which featured the German-language version (Die Verheißung), took place 28 February 2013 at the Kurt Weill Fest Dessau, conducted by Antony Hermus.
The English-language premiere in May represents the fourth major Weill performance by the Collegiate Chorale, and the third performance of a complete Weill work. The Chorale gave a widely hailed concert performance of Weill’s Broadway operetta The Firebrand of Florence (1945) in 2009. In 2011, they produced two concert performances of the Broadway musical Knickerbocker Holiday that resulted in the first complete recording of the show on Ghostlight Records. The Road of Promise is the most ambitious project yet.
Promotional video produced by the Collegiate Chorale
Historical video produced by the Collegiate Chorale
Blog post on The Road of Promise
Bill Madison’s blog post, with quotes from Ted Sperling
Q. & A. with Ted Sperling
Pre-concert talk on 7 May
Learn more about The Road of Promise
Learn more about The Eternal Road
New York Times (Vivien Schweitzer)
Superconductor (blog) (Paul J. Pelkonen)