The New York Choral Society’s The Unicorn Explores LGBTQ+ Identity and Defiance

The New York Choral Society closes its 65th season with a powerful and timely production: The Unicorn. This provocative restaging features rarely performed works from the 1950s by Leonard Bernstein and Gian Carlo Menotti. EMERGE125, the Black female-led hub for dance performance, actor Sam Turlington, countertenor Chuanyuan Liu (in the role usually sung by a Soprano), and members of the Grammy Award-winning Experiential Orchestra join the 120-voice chorus for this unforgettable theatrical production.

Beneath the glittering facade of America’s 1950s boom, anxieties simmered. McCarthyism and the Lavender Scare cast a dark shadow, targeting those who dared to be different. These chilling echoes resonate deeply with struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community today.

Playwright Lillian Hellman, facing her own battles against McCarthyism, saw a powerful parallel in her 1955 Broadway production of The Lark. This adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s 1952 play tells the story of Joan of Arc, a symbol of defiance against societal norms and unjust authority. Hellman enlisted Leonard Bernstein to compose the incidental music for her play. His French and Latin choruses evoke the profound tragedy of Joan’s persecution.

Similarly, Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore, which premiered with the New York City Ballet in 1957, is believed to be a veiled autobiography. This fantastical work follows a poet’s life through three stages represented by the three mythical creatures. Many see it as a reflection of Menotti’s own isolation and struggles as a gay man in a time of prejudice.

“While this music evokes the sound of medieval madrigals, Bernstein and Menotti haven’t merely mimicked the past; they’ve breathed new life into the form, infusing it with their own unmistakable styles,” notes Music Director David Hayes, “As we listen to music and its messages, it’s hard not to draw parallels between the anxieties of the 1950s and the unease of our current times. Our production reminds us that the fight for justice is a timeless one.”

The Unicorn is a captivating blend of choral music, choreography, and narration that offers a fresh take on the music of Leonard Bernstein and Gian Carlo Menotti as it explores the power of art to challenge social conformity and activate the fight for identity.

Don’t miss The New York Choral Society’s historic production of The Unicorn!

Thursday, May 30, 7:30pm
NYU Skirball Center
566 LaGuardia Place
New York, New York 10012

Tickets start at $30. Use promo code HYPERALLERGIC for 20% off all tickets.

To learn more and purchase tickets, visit

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