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Press Release


Firebird press release NEW_FINAL FOR WEBSITE






Featuring The Philadelphia Orchestra, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Janni Younge of Handspring Puppet Company


PHILADELPHIA (July 13, 2016) – On July 20, in celebration of its 40th season, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts will present the North American premiere of Firebird: Reimagined, a multidisciplinary interpretation of Igor Stravinsky’s orchestral score for the 1910 ballet The Firebird. The culminating performance of the Mann’s innovative, five-month, community-based festival, Firebird: Spirit Rising, the performance will feature 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. Firebird: Reimagined is supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.


“This rich, cultural program further elevates the original programming the Mann has been contributing to the cultural landscape of Philadelphia,” said Catherine Cahill, President and CEO of the Mann. “The opportunity to experience the North American premiere of this inventive new touring performance, coupled with new commissioned works unique to the Mann stage, is a truly exciting moment for music lovers. This type of reimagination of a classic performed by the distinguished Philadelphia Orchestra, and in concert with the incredible artistry of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Handspring Puppet Company, will make for a triumphant night at the Mann.”


Firebird: Reimagined pairs distinctive cultural traditions from Russia and South Africa in a multidisciplinary artistic program. The first half of the program, curated by Nolan Williams, Jr., CEO of NEWorks Productions and Festival Artistic Director for the Mann, will feature Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing vocal selections that reflect central themes of The Firebird story including the power of good conquering evil and the journey towards freedom. Their set will include a tribute to South African great Nelson Mandela, in honor of the late leader's birthday on July 18.


Ladysmith's set will also include performances of the two traditional Russian folk songs which inspired Stravinsky: The Larch Tree and The Vain Suitor. Williams—a noted composer, producer and musician whose diverse body of work has been performed in distinguished venues across the country—has arranged these Russian folk songs especially for Ladysmith Black Mambazo, stylizing them with South African harmonies and rhythms. Two local singers were selected through community auditions to perform with Ladysmith Black Mambazo: recent University of the Arts graduate Andrew Lawson and neo-soul recording artist Zeek.


The evening will be anchored in the second half by The Philadelphia Orchestra performing Igor Stravinsky’s full orchestral 1910 ballet score for The Firebird. Creating a distinctly contemporary African sensibility for this Russian symphonic work, the score will be accompanied by a re-imagination of the original Ballets

Russes staging with Younge’s towering puppets, performed by expert puppeteers and dancers. This new touring performance, which makes its North American debut at the Mann, will continue on to Wolftrap, Ravinia, Sun Valley, the Hollywood Bowl and Saratoga throughout the summer.


Firebird: Reimagined will serve as the centerpiece of the Mann’s annual Party in the Park gala which will celebrate the Mann’s 40th anniversary on July 20. The Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to the United States, His Excellency Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu, is an honorary chairman of the gala and concert, and will attend alongside Mayor Jim Kenney and other local dignitaries.


About the Mann

As one of the most important outdoor music centers in the country, the Mann presents premiere artists in a world-class, entertainment destination in association with AEG Live. Each summer season, renowned symphony orchestras, iconic rock stars and the latest touring artists in indie rock, hip hop, R&B and pop take the stage here, and today’s success is a nod to the venue’s storied history. The Mann has been the summer home of The Philadelphia Orchestra since the 1930s and presented critically acclaimed performers in every decade since then. Located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, the Mann hosts more than 170,000 visitors annually. Signature concert experiences are surrounded by Philadelphia’s stunning skyline and include seats beneath the Mann’s acoustically acclaimed pavilion; picnics, blankets and music under the stars on its famous lawn; and dining in Crescendo, the venue’s spectacular tented restaurant. For more information, visit


About The Philadelphia Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the preeminent orchestras in the world, renowned for its distinctive sound, desired for its keen ability to capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences, and admired for a legacy of innovation in music- making. The Orchestra is inspiring the future and transforming its rich tradition of achievement, sustaining the highest level of artistic quality, but also challenging—and exceeding—that level, by creating powerful musical experiences for audiences at home and around the world. Yannick Nézet-Séguin continues his inspired leadership as the eighth music director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, which began in the fall of 2012. His highly collaborative style, deeply-rooted musical curiosity, and boundless enthusiasm, paired with a fresh approach to orchestral programming, have been heralded by critics and audiences alike. Musician-led initiatives shine a spotlight on the Orchestra’s musicians, as they spread out from the stage into the community, and the Orchestra’s numerous education and community partnership initiatives are an important focus of the organization’s offerings. For more information on The Philadelphia Orchestra, please visit


About NEWorks Productions

As one of the country's premiere producers of inspirational-arts programming, NEWorks Productions partners with leading humanitarian, educational, arts, and renowned institutions to present curatorial festivals, concert productions, special events, and other signature projects, that leverage the power of music and the arts for community engagement and social good. Past and present partners include: the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington National Opera, the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Georgetown University, Oberlin College, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, the Embassy of India, the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa, the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the world class Philadelphia Orchestra.


About The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is a multidisciplinary grantmaker and hub for knowledge sharing, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and dedicated to fostering a vibrant cultural community in Greater Philadelphia. The Center fulfills this mission by investing in ambitious, imaginative projects that showcase the region’s cultural vitality and enhance public life, and by engaging in an exchange of ideas concerning artistic and interpretive practice with a broad network of cultural practitioners and leaders.

Firebird: Reimagined has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

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