Bill Murray and cellist Jan Vogler

In New Worlds, the actor Bill Murray charts what are, perhaps for many, unexpected waters considering his career as one of comedy’s great performers: a commingling of excerpts from American literature performed by spoken word and accompanied by the strains of classical music from some of Europe’s great composers.

For dedicated followers of Murray’s singular career, which has been characterised by increasingly esoteric choices within the last two decades, the combination will come as no surprise. Murray and the German-American cellist Jan Vogler released an album of the same name and concept last year, on which Murray sings and performs spirited readings over music by Vogler’s chamber ensemble. Now, the two (and friends) are bringing their often explosive performance to the Sydney Opera House and stages throughout Australia and New Zealand.

With a program that includes selections from West Side Story and arrangements by Bach and Schubert, New Worlds is primed to satiate the nostalgic and delight newcomers to classics, both modern and otherwise, alike. One particularly moving piece sees Vogler – who will be joined by his wife, renowned Chinese-American violinist Mira Wang, and Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez – perform the arrangement of ‘Moon River’ from Breakfast at Tiffany’s while Murray reads an excerpt from Huckleberry Finn. The works of Walt Whitman and Ernest Hemingway are also narrated by Murray throughout.

In typical Murray fashion, the actor and Vogler reportedly met when they sat across from each other on a plane from Berlin to New York, eventually striking up a friendship that lead to the live festival debut of New Worlds and a North American tour last year. In a statement, Murray described the collaboration as a “collision of America and Europe”, owing in part to each members’ coming “from four different continents.”

“And when the continents come together, the music moves right across the peninsulas from one to the other,” he says. “It’s just a short journey from one continent to the other.”

To see Murray perform ‘I Feel Pretty’ from West Side Story live should be worth the cost of admission alone. New Worlds is available for – and worthwhile – streaming now.

Bill Murray, Jan Vogler and Friends: New Worlds will be performed on Friday November 9 and Saturday November 10 at the Sydney Opera House and at other venues in Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Wellington. Pre-sale tickets go on sale this coming Wednesday, February 14; general release will be available from Monday February 19 from $99.90 + booking fees. More information is available here.

Tile and cover image: Peter Rigaud/Courtesy of Sydney Opera House