April 27, a six-concert Bach/Handel festival, commemorating the 250th anniversary of the birth of the composers, began with an all-Handel program of Israel in Egypt and Concerto Grosso in F Major, Op. 6, No. 2. The festival concluded on May 4 with a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Among the performers were the Chorus of the Oratorio Society, the Boy Choristers of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, the Juilliard Orchestra, and soloists Ernest Hutcheson, Albert Stoessel, Georges Barrère, Viola Peters, Josephine Antoine, and Risë Stevens.
April 22-27, Juilliard presented a series of six performances by Martha Graham and Company in celebration of the completion of the Dance Division’s first year. The historic engagement marked Graham’s return to the stage after two years of inactivity. Highlights of the series included the premiere of the one-act ballet Canticle for Innocent Comedians, a Juilliard commission with a score by Thomas Ribbink, and the New York premiere of The Triumph of Saint Joan, with music by Norman Dello Joio, both with sets by Frederick Kiesler. Errand Into the Maze (music by Gian Carlo Menotti), Judith (music by William Schuman), and Herodiade (music by Paul Hindemith) were also presented, featuring Isamu Noguchi’s designs. Appearing with Graham were Patricia Birsh, Robert Cohan, Miriam Cole, Mary Hinkson, Stuart Hodes, Dorothy Krooks, Pearl Lang, Linda Margolies, Helen McGehee, May O’Donnell, Bertram Ross, Matt Turney, and Yuriko Kikuchi. Frederick Prausnitz conducted the Juilliard Orchestra; Helen Lanfer was assistant and musical advisor to Graham.
April 23, the Juilliard Theater (now known as the Peter Jay Sharp Theater), designed by Pietro Belluschi, was inaugurated with the newly established American Opera Center’s first production, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. The event was designated as an homage to the 87-year-old composer. Erich Leinsdorf conducted, with Tito Capobianco as director, Ming Cho Lee as set designer, and costumes by José Varona.
April 19, the Juilliard Theater Center’s spring 1985 repertory season commenced. Season productions were Tennessee Williams’s Tony award-winning drama Night of the Iguana, directed by John Stix; John Murray and Allen Boretz’s American farce Room Service, directed by Harold Stone; and John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, in a new musical version of the 17th-century satire directed by Michael Langham. Commissioned by Juilliard for the production, new music for The Beggar’s Opera was composed by Obie award-winning composer Stanley Silverman and performed by classical guitarist Edward Flower.