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A journey of freedom, from bow to sword

Now that cozy season is in full swing, it’s the perfect time to spend an evening at Kleinhans, and this time not only for the music, but for a theatrical performance as well.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is presenting The Chevalier on Wednesday Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. for one night only. Buffalo is just one stop on this concert theater tour, so don’t miss it when it comes through the Queen City.

This inspiring traveling performance delves into the life of Joseph Bologne, featuring his friend Mozart and student Marie Antoinette. All three, immigrants facing the realities of the French Revolution, are battling the constraints of authoritarianism with some interwoven comedic flair.

Bologne, also known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was the first major classical composer of color, Europe’s premier fencer, a general in the first Black regiment in Europe, and a leading voice in the fight against slavery, amongst being a renowned violinist.

The story is told through partially staged dialogue written and directed by Bill Barclay, featuring music by Bologne himself.

The multi-talented Bologne was born in the Caribbean, his mother a slave and his father a French aristocrat. As a young boy he moved to France, hired to be the chamberlain to Louis XV, developing his musical talents amongst various other skills, but facing barriers along the way due to the color of his skin.

Well-established in his musical career, the French Revolution forced Bologne to put down the bow and pick up a sword to avoid enslavement. He is often remembered more for his skillful fighting as his nickname “The Chevalier” suggests, literally meaning someone of French nobility or knighthood trained in arms and horsemanship.

Although he was varied in his successes, some say his art may have been taken more seriously or that he might have had the sponsorship to keep his astounding music in circulation if it weren’t for the racial discrimination against him.

With themes of issues we are still facing in today’s society, this stage play provides a chance to reflect on the changing state of equality over the past two centuries, and acknowledge the work that’s yet to be done.

Buffalo Philharmonic Music Director JoAnn Falletta conducts Brendon Elliott on violin in collaboration with the four actors: Thomas Brazzle (The Chevalier), Merritt Janson (Marie Antoinette), David Joseph (Amadeus Mozart), and Bill Barclay (Pierre Choderlos de Laclos).

Pay tribute to the under-appreciated Chevalier and learn why history must not forget him.
Tickets start at $31; Students $17, and can be purchased at https://bpo.org/event/the-chevalier/ .

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