Bill Barclay’s The Chevalier, A Concert Theater Work About Black Composer, Joseph Bologna, Chevalier de Saint-Georges – Harlem World Magazine
On July 10, 2022, Caramoor present Knighta concertante work on Joseph Bologna, Knight of Saint-Georges.
Bologna was a prolific 18th-century composer, virtuoso violinist, abolitionist, general of Europe’s first black regiment, an acquaintance of Mozart and Marie Antoinette, and Europe’s finest fencer, whose story has nonetheless been forgotten by the story.
Called “absorbing and illuminating” by Classic Chicago Review, Knight is written and directed by Bill Barclay and features both actor RJ Foster and violinist Brendon Elliott as the title character; Barclay chose to split the role to convey the immense breadth of Bologna’s achievements as a conductor, composer, violinist, activist and swordsman.
Other star actors include Sarah Baskin, Ian Unterman and Barclay himself, and the music is performed by the Harlem Chamber Players. Before the show, there is a pre-concert conversation with creator Barclay.
Knight is a mainstay of Caramoor’s 2022 summer season, which celebrates the power of music to unite people, heal divisions and inspire discovery.
With performers and composers representing a wide range of backgrounds and lived experiences, the season shines a light on many people who have been historically suppressed by systemic forces and focuses on music as a collective cultural heritage for the whole world. .
Bologna is a prime example of one of those underrepresented artists deserving of greater recognition, and Knight is a demonstration of Caramoor’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion as a core operational practice.
“We are thrilled to take to the stage at this summer’s Caramoor Festival and showcase Bologna’s overlooked history and music on one of New York’s most iconic and exciting outdoor stages. efficient Knight with the Harlem Chamber Players will be particularly thrilling as they have long advocated for the spotlighting of marginalized voices and the programming of composers of color. Concert Theater Works commends Caramoor for its deep commitment to supporting musicians of color. The march for fairness continues.
Knight is a piece with orchestra based on the remarkable life of Joseph Bologna, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), notably his relations with Mozart, with whom he lived for a few months under the same roof in 1778, and with Marie-Antoinette, to whom he taught music at Versailles.
Bologna produced a considerable body of work as a composer and was conductor of the Concert de la Loge Olympique – considered one of the finest orchestras in Europe – under whose auspices he commissioned Haydn’s Symphonies de Paris, enthusiastically received.
Bologna’s notoriety is not limited to music: in addition to being the best fencer in Europe and general of the first black regiment in Europe, he also campaigns for the abolition of slavery.
Interweaving scenes between actors with musical excerpts, Barclay’s work weaves Bologna’s compositions into its fascinating history, and juxtaposes the period of the French Revolution with today’s social and political unrest. Barclay explains:
“The dramatic possibilities of these three characters conversing just before the start of the French Revolution were simply too tempting to ignore. And then the politics of the French Revolution [compared to] 2019 and 2020 made me realize that history rhymes and there is a way to show the issues we face politically today by looking at this particular decade in history.
With Foster and Elliott in the title role, Knight features Barclay as Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, the author of Dangerous relationships who wrote the libretto of Bologna’s first opera; Sarah Baskin as Marie Antoinette; and Ian Unterman as Mozart, whose music rubs shoulders with that of Bologna and that of Christoph Willibald Glück, arranged by Barclay.
Edward J. Lewis III, President and CEO of Caramoor, comments:
“Caramoor is honored to present the brilliant work of concert theater by Bill Barclay, Knight. As we play our part in helping to expand the canon of classical music, we hope this collaboration with Concert Theater Works and the Harlem Chamber Players will enlighten our audiences about the important contributions of historical people of color whose artistic works and voices resonate as strongly as ever.
Caramoor is a cultural arts destination located on a unique estate of over 80 acres with Italianate architecture and gardens in upstate Westchester County, New York. His magnificent grounds include the historic Rosen House, a magnificent mansion listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to enriching the lives of its audiences through innovative and diverse musical performances of the highest quality, Caramoor mentors young professional musicians and offers music-centered educational programs for young children.
Getting to Caramoor
Getting to Caramoor is simple by car or public transport. All parking lots are free and close to performance venues. Disabled parking is also free and easily accessible.
By car from New York, take Henry Hudson Parkway north to Saw Mill River Parkway north to I-684 North to Exit 6. Go east on Route 35 to at the traffic light (0.3 mile).
Turn right onto Route 22 South and travel 2 miles to the junction of Girdle Ridge Road where there is a green Caramoor sign. At the crossroads turn left and take a quick right onto Girdle Ridge Road. Continue on Girdle Ridge Road for half a mile to the gates of Caramoor on the right. The approximate journey time is one hour.
By train from Grand Central Station, take the Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem Division Line southeastbound and exit at Katonah. Caramoor is 3.5 miles from Katonah Station.
A FREE shuttle from Metro North’s Katonah Station runs before and after each concert.