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February 19, 2007


Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Barbara Dever joins the Monmouth Civic Chorus and orchestra for Let Freedom Sing, featuring three major choral works on the theme of freedom. The highlight is the world premiere of Stronger Than Darkness by the Cuban-American composer Jorge Martín, celebrating the heart-pounding courage of the Mariel boatlift. The music comes from Martin’s new opera, Before Night Falls, based on the thrilling memoir by the late Cuban dissident Reinaldo Arenas. As an outspoken anti-Castro intellectual and gay activist, Arenas lost his job and was imprisoned and tortured for a crime he did not commit. He managed to smuggle his writings out of Cuba for publication abroad until his escape to New York in 1980. His final book became Julian Schnabel’s film Before Night Falls, starring Javier Bardem and Johnny Depp, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival in 2000.

Under the baton of award-winning Artistic Director, Dr. Mark Shapiro, the concert also features Beethoven’s famed Ode to Joy as an Ode to Freedom, as performed by Leonard Bernstein after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Testament of Freedom by the American composer Randall Thompson, setting the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson.

The concert is at the Count Basie Theatre, 99 Monmouth Street, Red Bank, New Jersey on Sunday, March 18, 2007, at 3:00 p.m. Composer Jorge Martín will give a free pre-concert talk at 2:00. Concert tickets are $30 and $25, $27 and $22 for seniors, $25 and $20 for groups of 10 or more, $10 and $5 for students. Call (732) 933-9333 for tickets, or order online at

The role of Reinaldo Arenas will be sung by baritone Ross Benoliel, an international finalist in Placido Domingo’s Operalia competition in Valencia, Spain, and a Semi-finalist in the 2006 Metropolitan Opera New England Regional finals. Soprano Angela Meade has won top prizes from several major competitions including the National Opera Association, the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation Competition, and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Tenor Jeffrey Behrens is currently in his second year with The Juilliard Opera Center, and will be a young artist with the Santa Fe Opera this summer. Bass Nathan Baer has performed with Indiana Opera Theatre, Espresso Opera, Opera of the Hamptons and numerous orchestras and choirs, including Cantori New York directed by Mark Shapiro.

The Monmouth Civic Chorus has been acclaimed as “close to perfect” (Asbury Park Press), “sonorously impressive” (The Star-Ledger) and “a vital musical presence on the New Jersey classical music scene” (Classical New Jersey). The Chorus has sung at the cathedrals of Vienna, Florence, and the Vatican, and by invitation at Carnegie Hall, the PNC Bank Arts Center and with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Dr. Shapiro is on the faculty of Mannes College the New School for Music in New York and the European-American Musical Academy in Paris.