New York’s Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts is set to present the unique story of the Black 18th century composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges on July 10.
Lost in history until the 21st century, Joseph Bologne was a “virtuoso violinist, abolitionist, general of Europe’s first Black regiment, acquaintance of both Mozart and Marie Antoinette and the finest fencer in Europe.”
Though he has gone unknown until recently, Bologne made an impact on the musical and aristocratic world of his time and is nothing less than a fascinating historical figure who deserves musical and artistic exploration that Caramoor is offering this summer.
The piece, entitled “The Chevalier,” was written and directed by Bill Barclay and highlights acting performances by R.J. Foster and violinist Brendon Elliott who plays Bologne, and the music is performed by the Harlem Chamber Players.
“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,” says Barclay.
There has been an important trend of intelligent and creative storytellers choosing to share the stories of Black classical composers who have been lost in history. The whitewashing of classical music has done a disservice to the world by silencing and burying the Black contributors of the art and the attempt to face this wrongdoing head on by offering diverse works to the world is a powerful step forward in building inclusiveness for actors, directors and the theatrical Western community.
“‘The Chevalier’ is a play with orchestra based on the remarkable life of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), particularly his relationships to 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.”
Getting to Caramoor 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.
For more information visit www.caramoor.org.