Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin would seem to be taking The Philadelphia Orchestra back to 1930. That was the year the late Leopold Stokowski, heard here with the Depression-era Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted Stravinsky’s ballet, The Rite of Spring when it was first danced in the United States. But there’s nothing retrogressive in what New York’s cutting-edge Ridge Theater is cooking up for this week’s Rite with the Orchestra. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns is still guessing what it will look like.
The least-used spaces in Verizon Hall are….up in the air.
STEARNS: There’s much height to it. There are projection surfaces above the orchestra. Why not make that a playing space for the choreography as well?
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Vice President of Artistic Planning Jeremy Rothman is referring to the use of an aerialist. For that, he’s commandeering the hall for an entire week to set up the proper rigging. The production's winter-to-spring depiction will also have video projections on multiple screens and scrims, plus dancers. Though, not that many, says Nezet-Seguin.
NEZET-SEGUIN: There’s a few dancers but it’s not danced the whole thing, which was important for me.
Time and again, the conductor emphasizes that his orchestra is not going to get lost in a lot of theatrical bells and whistles. The huge Ridge Theater apparatus is there to serve the Orchestra. The conductor, not the dancers, will dictate tempos, says Rothman.
ROTHMAN: Yannick is somewhat uncompromising about what he wants to present musically.
The Rite of Spring has been widely and wildly interpreted over the years, from tribal Russian dancers of the Joffrey Ballet to Paul Taylor’s film-noir version with gangsters. Just how far afield will this one go? Is the ballet still about human sacrifice?
ROTHMAN: There is a sacrifice…the idea was to get back to the spirit of it…but rather than the …is to take the same spirit and update it with more modern means. But there’s still a sacrifice.
Everywhere you look right now, it seems like American symphony orchestras are fighting for their lives — strikes, lockouts, bankruptcy. Perhaps the biggest example is the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, which is just coming out of its own bankruptcy. Tonight, its new 37-year-old music director takes the podium as the venerable orchestra begins a reboot.
Following in the footsteps of legends such as Leopold Stokwoski, Eugene Ormandy, and Riccardo Muti, Yannick Nezet-Seguin is set to conduct his inaugural concerts as music director of The Philadelphia Orchestra. On Thursday, October 18th, the opening-night concert features the music of Ravel, Brahms, and Strauss with soloist Renee Fleming, followed by performances of the Verdi Requiem on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
The Philadelphia Orchestra's Music Director Designate Yannick Nezet-Seguin made his Saratoga Performing Arts Center debut this week in a trio of concerts that appear to insure, as much as anything can, the Orchestra’s continued presence there. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns reports from Upstate New York.