(June 2022)—On July 10, Caramoor presents The Chevalier, a concert theater work about Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a prolific 18th-century composer, virtuoso violinist, abolitionist, general of Europe’s first Black regiment, an acquaintance of both Mozart and Marie Antoinette, and the finest fencer in Europe, whose story was nonetheless forgotten by history. Called “absorbing and illuminating” by Chicago Classical Review, The Chevalier is written and directed by Bill Barclay and features both actor RJ Foster and violinist Brendon Elliott as the title character; Barclay chose to divide the role to convey the immense breadth of Bologne’s accomplishments as a conductor, composer, violinist, activist, and swordsman. Other featured actors include Sarah Baskin, Ian Unterman, and Barclay himself, and the music is performed by the Harlem Chamber Players. Leading up to the performance is a pre-concert talk with creator Barclay.
The Chevalier is one of the linchpins of Caramoor’s 2022 summer season, which celebrates music’s power to unite people, heal divisions, and inspire discovery. With performers and composers representing a vast array of backgrounds and lived experiences, the season spotlights many whom systemic forces have historically suppressed and focuses on music as a collective cultural heritage for the entire world. Bologne is a prime example of one of these underrepresented artists deserving greater recognition, and The Chevalier is a demonstration of Caramoor’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion as a core operating practice.
“We are so thrilled to tread the boards at this summer’s Caramoor festival and to bring Bologne’s neglected story and music to one of New York’s most iconic and exciting outdoor stages. Performing The Chevalier with the Harlem Chamber Players will be a particular thrill as they have long advocated for highlighting marginalized voices and programming composers of color. Concert Theatre Works commends Caramoor for their deep commitment to supporting musicians of color. The march for equity goes on.”
The Chevalier is a play with orchestra based on the remarkable life of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745–1799), particularly his relationships with Mozart, with whom he lived under the same roof for some months in 1778, and Marie Antoinette, to whom he taught music at Versailles. Bologne produced a considerable body of work as a composer, and served as conductor of the Concert de la Loge Olympique – considered one of the finest orchestras in Europe – under the auspices of which he commissioned Haydn’s rapturously received Paris Symphonies. Bologne’s high profile was not restricted to music: besides being the finest fencer in Europe and general of Europe’s first Black regiment, he also crusaded for the abolition of slavery.
Interweaving scenes between the actors with music excerpts, Barclay’s work blends Bologne’s compositions with his 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 right before the French Revolution began was just too tempting to ignore. And then the politics of the French Revolution [compared to] 2019 and 2020 made me realize that history was rhyming and that there was a way to showcase the problems that we were having politically today by examining this particular decade of history.”
Along with Foster and Elliott in the title role, The Chevalier features Barclay as Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, the author of Les Liaisons dangereuses who wrote the libretto for Bologne’s first opera; Sarah Baskin as Marie Antoinette; and Ian Unterman as Mozart, whose music is heard alongside Bologne’s and that of Christoph Willibald Glück, arranged by Barclay.
Edward J. Lewis III, Caramoor’s President and Chief Executive Officer, comments:
“Caramoor is honored to present Bill Barclay’s brilliant concert theater work, The Chevalier. As we play our part to help expand the canon of classical music, it is our hope that this collaboration with Concert Theatre Works and the Harlem Chamber Players will enlighten our audiences on the important contributions of historic people of color whose artistic works and voices resonate as strongly as ever.”
About the Performers
Writer, director, actor, and producer Bill Barclay (Pierre Choderlos de Laclos) – hailed as a “personable polymath” by The Times of London – was director of music at Shakespeare’s Globe from 2012-2019, producing music for more than 120 productions and 150 concerts, and is currently the artistic director of Concert Theatre Works. A passionate advocate for evolving the concert hall, he has created works of concert theater for the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
RJ Foster (Joseph Bologne) has performed in New York theaters such as the Pearl Theatre Company and Classic Stage Company, as well as in many regional Shakespeare productions including a full season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He has appeared on multiple television shows such as Fringe (FOX), Guiding Light (CBS), Damages with Rose Byrne and Campbell Scott (FX), Blue Bloods with Donnie Wahlberg (CBS), The Blacklist with Paul Reubens (NBC) and Person of Interest with Michael Emerson (CBS). Foster was nominated for Best Actor by BroadwayWorld for his portrayal of Othello in 2015. Raised in Baltimore, MD, Foster received his B.A. in Theatre Performance from Fordham University at Lincoln Center.
Brendon Elliott (solo violin) has performed with the New York Philharmonic and was recently a guest soloist with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Richmond Symphony Orchestra. In 2015 and 2019, he toured with the Sphinx Virtuosi Ensemble, appearing at Carnegie Hall, and was a three-time semifinalist in the National Sphinx Competition, earning the National Sphinx Competition Achievement Award in 2012. He was also a National Finalist in the American String Teachers Association National Solo Competition. Elliott portrays the young adult version of the Afro-European child violin prodigy George Bridgetower in a feature-length documentary based on Rita Dove’s poetry collection Sonata Mulattica. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in 2016, where he studied with Pamela Frank and Joseph Silverstein, and earned his master’s degree at the Juilliard School in 2018, studying under Sylvia Rosenberg and Ronald Copes.
Sarah Baskin (Marie Antoinette) is a Canadian/American actor and filmmaker based in New York. She is particularly interested in the development of new work and the collaborative process. Baskin has originated roles in Death of a Driver (Urban Stages, dir. Kim T. Sharp), The Unbelievers and Three Women Mourn the Apocalypse (Theatre Center in Toronto, dir. Marina McClure), L’Amour Fou (Dangerous Ground Productions, dir. Doris Mirescu), Cardenio (American Repertory Theatre, dir. Les Waters), On The 5:31 (Rising Phoenix Rep / Cino Nights, dir. Taibi Magar), and Wolves (59E59, dir. Mike Klar).
Ian Unterman (Mozart) is an actor and assistant director who has appeared in the TV series The Sinner and the movies Brittany Runs a Marathon, Confetti, and The Many Saints of Newark. He currently stars alongside Michael Keaton, Rosario Dawson, and Peter Sarsgaard in Hulu’s Dopesick as Jonathan Sackler, the brother of Purdue Pharma’s president and CEO, Richard Sackler.
The Harlem Chamber Players is an ethnically diverse collective of professional musicians dedicated to bringing high-caliber, affordable, and accessible live classical music to people in the Harlem community and beyond. In addition, the Harlem Chamber Players builds diverse audiences for classical music through community and educational outreach, as well as through collaborations with Harlem’s other arts organizations, schools, and cultural institutions, while creating opportunities for classically trained musicians of color.
Getting to Caramoor
Getting to Caramoor is simple by car or public transportation. All parking is free and close to the performance areas. Handicapped parking is also free and readily available. By car from New York City, take the Henry Hudson Parkway north to the Saw Mill River Parkway north to I-684 north to Exit 6. Go east on Route 35 to the traffic light (0.3 miles). Turn right onto Route 22 south, and travel 1.9 miles to the junction of Girdle Ridge Road where there is a green Caramoor sign. At the junction, veer left and make a quick right onto Girdle Ridge Road. Continue on Girdle Ridge Road 0.5 miles to the Caramoor gates on the right. Approximate drive time is one hour. By train from Grand Central Station, take the Harlem Division Line of the Metro-North Railroad heading to Southeast, and exit at Katonah. Caramoor is a 3.5-mile drive from the Katonah station.
A FREE shuttle from Metro North’s Katonah station runs before and after every concert.
Caramoor is a cultural arts destination located on a unique 80-plus-acre estate with Italianate architecture and gardens in Northern Westchester County, NY. Its beautiful grounds include the historic Rosen House, a stunning mansion listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Besides enriching the lives of its audiences through innovative and diverse musical performances of the highest quality, Caramoor mentors young professional musicians and provides music-centered educational programs for young children.
|Caramoor is proud to be a grantee of ArtsWestchester with funding made possible by Westchester County government with the support of County Executive George Latimer.
|The Summer Season is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.