​In 2016, NEWorks Productions partnered with the Mann Center for the Performing Arts to curate FIREBIRD: SPIRIT RISING, a five-month festival celebrating the human spirit's boundless capacity for good, imagination, creativity, and freedom. With a special emphasis upon Russian and South African music and cultural traditions, FIREBIRD: SPIRIT RISING expanded the creative boundaries of the Mann's educational programming and community engagement through an unprecedented series of artistic initiatives developed in partnership with leading academic, civic and arts institutions.

​The Mann Center for the Performing Arts

Fairmont Park  |  Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, July 20, 2016  |  8 PM

​​​​​​​Click above to read The Philadelphia Inquirer performance review

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

On July 20, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts presented the world orchestra premier of Firebird: Reimagined, a multi-disciplinary interpretation of Igor Stravinsky’s orchestral score for the 1910 ballet The Firebird. The performance featured The Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Cristian Măcelaru, multi-Grammy-winning, South African vocal ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and larger-than-life puppets inspired by the artistry of the Broadway sensation War Horse and created by Janni Younge of South Africa’s renowned Handspring Puppet Company.

The first half of the program featured Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing vocal selections that reflected central themes of The Firebird story including the power of good conquering evil and the journey towards freedom. Their performance set, curated by festival artistic director Nolan Williams, Jr., also included the premier of two inventive settings of the Russian folk songs embedded in Stravinsky's Firebird, arranged by Williams that uniquely blended South African and Russian folk traditions. Two local singers were selected to perform these commissioned arrangements with Ladysmith Black Mambazo: recent University of the Arts graduate Andrew Lawson and neo-soul recording artist Zeek. The evening was anchored in the second half by The Philadelphia Orchestra performing Igor Stravinsky’s full orchestral 1910 ballet score for The Firebird accompanied by a re-imagination of the original Ballets Russes staging with Younge’s towering puppets, performed by expert puppeteers and dancers.

Firebird: Reimagined was the centerpiece of the Mann’s 40th anniversary. Among the distinguished list of VIP attendees was the Honorable Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu, Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to the United States. 

Firebird: Reimagined was supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The performance marked the conclusion of the five-month, community-based festival, Firebird: Spirit Rising, developed collaboratively by the Mann and NEWorks Productions.​

The Philadelphia Orchestra

​​​​​​Click above to read The Philadelphia Inquirer feature story 

Janni Younge of South Africa's Renowned Handspring Puppet Company

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