Will Liverman to Headline The Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary Celebration of Bernstein’s ‘Mass’

By David Salazar

The Kennedy Center is set to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s famed “Mass” on Sept. 8, 2021.

The piece, which inaugurated the brand-new John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts with its world premiere on Sept. 8, 1971, will be presented in a new fully staged production starring Will Liverman as the Celebrant.

The work was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for the opening of the Kennedy Center, prompting Bernstein to use the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Tridentine Church to honor and memorialize the late U.S. President. The opening performance of the work was directed by Gordon Davidson and conducted by Maurice Peress. The work is seen as an anti-war piece, stirring up great controversy at the time of its premiere. Even the Roman Catholic Church withheld its approval and pressured some cities into canceling planned performances.

The view of the work has since changed with Pope John Paul II requesting a performance in 2000 at the Vatican.