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FESTIVAL OF NARCISSUS

Car Man Suite

This week, in addition to the Higdon Percussion Concerto, we’re doing Rodion Shchedrin’s remarkable arrangement of a suite from Bizet’s opera Carmen for strings and percussion.  Instruments take up the vocal lines in addition to the full complement of orchestral lines, so the strings and percussion do find themselves very busy.  The arrangement was made for a ballet set by the Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonso and premiered in Moscow in 1967 (hence, the Cuban Overture of Gershwin on this same program!).  It includes two additional bits of other works of Bizet: his famous farandole from the Arlisienne Suite, and the Danse bohémienne from his opera La jolie fille de Perth.

Other choreographers have taken up Carmen, among the most noteworthy being the Enlishman Matthew Bourne (who famously set Swan Lake for two male leads) in a version called Car Man.  Here’s a taste:

obt orchestra returns

Bob Hicks (a.k.a. Mr. Scatter) has a review of the Oregon Ballet Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which featured the return of the OBT orchestra after being absent due to budget cuts for all of the 2009-2010 season.  Here’s the portion of the review that deals with the orchestra:

Welcome back, orchestra.

After an elegant, crisp interpretation of George Balanchine‘s modernist classic “The Four Temperaments” and an intermission break on Saturday night, conductor Niel DePonte‘s head poked up for the first time this season from the orchestra pit.

The crowd in Keller Auditorium broke out in applause: At long last, the Oregon Ballet Theatre Orchestra was back. Missing all season because of extreme budget cuts caused by the ballet’s financial near-death experience last year, the musicians – 45 strong, and buttressed by the singers of the Pacific Youth Choir – were back in the pit to perform Felix Mendelssohn’s warm, playful and sometimes deeply moving music for Christopher Stowell‘s ballet “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The orchestra’s performance was lively and assured. More important, it was there, back where it ought to be, providing the full sound and anticipatory, in-the-moment partnership that quickens dancers’ responses and brings a ballet fully to life.

Maybe it’s fitting that the orchestra’s first performance of the season came for a ballet set in a forest. OBT is hardly out of the financial woods yet, but it seems to be finding its path. After last spring and summer’s remarkable emergency drive that brought in more than $900,000 to keep the company afloat, donations this season are up sharply. In January alone OBT hauled in $455,000 from three major grants. That doesn’t solve the company’s long-term challenges, but it helps considerably.

And for the run of this “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” at least, it brings the orchestra back.

All was not smooth sailing, however: here’s a posting from OBT’s facebook page:
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, plus 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St.
Tickets: $17-$130 (2 p.m. Saturday show, $8.50-$65)
Information: 888-922-5538 or www.obt.org