May 26, 2024
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The Sleeping Beauty by Benjamin Wenzelberg: A New Opera for Family Audiences

Benjamin Wenzelberg, a 15-year-old musical prodigy who has studied and performed with the JCC School of Performing Arts since he was 7 years old, will present his original, full-length opera, The Sleeping Beauty, at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades on January 25 at 4:30 p.m. Cast with professional singers, as well as the JCC Broadway Youth Ensemble, this is the first time the opera will be performed in its entirety.

Benjy began composing the piano and vocal score for his opera at age 11, and spent the last three years developing the score. When he turned 13, the completed first act was presented in concert in NYC by the Chelsea Opera, and the following spring, the Opera once again performed orchestrated excerpts, earning Benjy an ASCAP Young Composer Award and a prestigious music scholarship.

A seasoned boy soprano, Benjy has been enjoying an illustrious career in the performing arts for a long time. He recently performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where he was cited as “a rich-voiced boy soprano” by the New York Times. He performed in the New York City Opera’s production of The Turn of the Screw and received rave reviews from New York Magazine. Last year, he made his solo debut at the Metropolitan Opera in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and is currently performing there in La Boheme.

Over the years, Benjy has performed with The Atlanta Opera, the Little Orchestra Society at Avery Fisher Hall, Shakespeare in the Park, Central Park’s Summer Stage, and the US Open, and he was invited to sing in Israel. He has also been a soloist with the New York Philharmonic and is currently in his sixth season with the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus, where he has performed in many operas and stepped in as an understudy for several solo roles as well. In addition to his stage life, Benjy has been composing for years. He wrote a percussion piece, “The Storm,” which premiered at NYU’s Percussion Ensemble last fall, and a piano trio, “Midnight Tides,” which won a BMI Student Composer Award and Carlos Surinach Prize this past spring.

Never forgetting his roots, Benjy continues to return to the JCC to coach and get feedback from the staff at the School of Performing Arts. He recently returned to prepare for a solo he was singing with the Portland Symphony Orchestra, as well as for an exciting film he recently completed, Boy Choir, starring Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, and Debra Winger, where he sings the voice of the lead character.

“I love all things music and would like to be a conductor and music director of a major company one day, but for now, I am thrilled to be composing and performing in pieces of my own. I was inspired to do my version of Sleeping Beauty because I conceived it as an opera written by a kid for kids. My hope is to share my passion for music and opera with other young people to encourage them to love music and theater the way I do. Music is not just a part of me, it’s what makes me, well, me! And I am so happy to be performing the opera at the JCC because it gives me the chance to give back to all of the people who have been so kind, helpful, and important to me. ”

Benjy will play the piano and sing the role of the frog in the JCC production of his opera and will be donating all proceeds to the JCC School of Performing Arts and to cultural arts and music programs in the Tenafly Public Schools.

Ticket are $8 for JCC members; $10 general admission. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 201-408-1493 or visit the JCC website at www.jccotp.org.

By Stephanie Cangro

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