16 June will mark the 80th anniversary of the infamous premiere of The Cradle Will Rock—the night the Federal Theatre Project locked the cast and crew out of the Maxine Elliot’s Theater, forcing them to scramble to find a new venue for the opening night of Blitzstein’s highly anticipated agitprop musical. Undeterred, the cast marched up Broadway to the Venice Theater, where Blitzstein performed the score from the piano onstage and the actors sang and spoke their parts from the audience.
While it has become nearly impossible in the intervening years to separate the spectacle of that first performance from the notoriety of the show itself, Cradle has remained a repertoire staple, though almost exclusively performed in a pared-down, piano-only version. However, that is about to change: This summer, Opera Saratoga in upstate New York offers theater-goers a rare opportunity to hear The Cradle Will Rock as Blitzstein intended, in a fully staged production with his original orchestration. Lawrence Edelson directs this new production, which takes the stage for four performances 9–16 July, conducted by noted Blitzstein expert John Mauceri. The cast features three past prizewinners of the Lotte Lenya Competition (a program of the Kurt Weill Foundation): Ginger Costa-Jackson (2013 Lys Symonette Award) as Moll, Justin Hopkins (2012 2nd Prize) as Reverend Salvation, and Lisa Marie Rogali (2017 Special Award) in the ensemble. This will be the first time the original orchestration has been heard since the New York City Opera production in 1960.
Additionally, Opera Saratoga offers several ancillary events to enhance audience members’ knowledge of Blitzstein’s music. On 16 June, the evening of the 80th anniversary of the world premiere, OS presents Marc Blitzstein – A Life in Song, curated and hosted by Hopkins. The program will include excerpts from Blitzstein’s theatrical and operatic works as well as lesser-known songs. Another song evening, Broadway in the 1930s on 14 July, will feature songs by Blitzstein and Weill, along with the usual suspects, Gershwin, Porter, and Rodgers and Hart.
Find more information and tickets on the Opera Saratoga website.
Listen to an interview with director Lawrence Edelson and conductor John Mauceri on WMHT radio.