Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
May 6, 2015

This performance took place as part of the centenary celebrations of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Bernstein’s Massis indeed a massive work, involving over 400 performers including full orchestra, massed choirs, soloists, a jazz/rock combo, organ, and dancers. It was written in 1971, a time of great social upheaval in the Western world, when the younger generation was questioning the sexual mores and power structures their parents had taken for granted. This angry “peace” generation was the Baby Boomers, who eventually mellowed into the smug economic rationalists we know today. Social unrest and its effects are reflected during the progress of the work, and in the journey of the Celebrant, the central singer and protagonist. Massis about a crisis of faith: if the old rituals no longer suffice, where do we turn? On his deathbed, Bernstein told his friend Michael Wager: “I have lost my faith.” So Massis about Bernstein as well: he struggled with these issues. The ancient Hebrew idea of Man in a life-and-death tussle with God is never far away.

The English libretto of Mass(which employs the Latin mass as an overall structure) is by Bernstein and Stephen...