Theater: MYTHS AND HYMNS (Adam Guettel’s Theatrical Song Cycle (MasterVoices)

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by Tony Frankel on March 23, 2021

in Theater-New York,Virtual


Myths and Hymns is a kaleidoscopic song cycle that explores the nature of faith and longing in a secular world. With it, MasterVoices is exploring the nature of choral performance in a digital world – this epic performance will be virtual, but nothing like your typical Zoom offering. 

Nearly nine months in the making, Myths and Hymns brings tour de force performances together with master directors, illustrators, animators, photographers, and videographers. Each song forms its own visually illuminating short film, making the experience like watching four mini-film festivals from the comfort of your own home – each packed with music focused on one aspect of the journey towards fulfillment: Flight, Work, Love, and Faith. And you won’t believe the line-up of stars.

Composed by Tony Award–winner Adam Guettel (Light in the Piazza, Floyd Collins), the score reflects influences ranging from Gabriel Fauré to Stevie Wonder to Caetano Veloso. Myths and Hymns will be free to the public. Two chapters have already been released on January 13 (Chapter 1 available here) and February 24 (Chapter 2 here). The next chapter, Love, premiering on April 14, stars the amazing Dove Cameron, Shereen Pimentel, and Cheyenne Jackson.

Love will feature the songs “Lonely”, performed by the MasterVoices choir, with Sperling as director; “Hero and Leander”, featuring Jackson; “Come to Jesus”, directed by Victoria Clark and featuring Pimentel and Drew Gehling; “Medusa”, with visual art by Earl Womack and a cast including John Brancy as Perseus, Nina Bernstein as Medusa, Lori Wilner as Stheno, and Dianne Drayse Alsonso as Euryale; and “How Can I Lose You?”, featuring Cameron as soloist. Orchestrations are by Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence, and Ellen Fitzhugh provides additional lyrics.

The final chapter opens on April 14, 2021. Special gala preview screenings for each chapter can be found here.


Following his Obie Award-winning 1996 musical Floyd Collins – for which Ted Sperling served as Music Director – Guettel’s next public project was the song cycle Myths and Hymns. The songs were inspired by two very different sources: ancient Greek myths – including Icarus, Pegasus, Prometheus, Sisyphus, Hero and Leander, and Medusa – and Protestant hymn texts, derived from an antique hymnal Guettel found in a shop upstate. 

Workshopped in several forms and venues, it was ultimately performed as Saturn Returns in an extended run at The Public Theater in 1998. A recording of selections was released on Nonesuch Records using the original title, and since then the work has gained a devoted cult following. MasterVoices’ production features several tracks not available on the album, and some never before heard in public. Says Guettel, “I couldn’t be more honored or thrilled by this production. It’s the perfect piece to be adapted in this way, and Ted Sperling is the perfect person to bring it all together. He’s done an absolutely amazing job.”

After the launch, all chapters will remain available for on-demand streaming on MasterVoices YouTube channel  until June 30, 2021. There is no registration or sign up required to view the performance.

The fourth and final chapter, Faith, explores the possibility of finding fulfillment through the possibility of finding fulfillment through belief in something bigger. There’s a Land conjures a version of heaven where all problems are solved. There’s a Shout also puts stock in a God that will come to the rescue. Awaiting You mourns the loss of loved ones and teachers. A recasting of Saturn Returns shows the acceptance that fulfillment will have to come from an internal change, a reconciliation of desire and acceptance. Light After Darkness uses one more hymn text to recapitulate the themes of the piece and celebrate its completion. It features Anthony Roth Costanzo, Trip Cullman, Joshua Henry, Nicholas Phan, Ted Sperling, The MasterVoices Chorus, and more artists TBA.

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