Tomorrow, when Maestro Jacques Lacombe takes the stage at the helm of the mighty forces of New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, he is expecting some pretty stormy weather—on stage. He leads the musicians in the latest instalment of the Winter Festival, the theme of which is “Air and the Atmosphere.” All three compositions feature metaphorical storms as portrayed by orchestra:
- “The Tempest Fantasy Overture” by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky;
- “The Tempest, incidental music for soloists and orchestra,” by Jean Sibelius; and
- Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, “Pastoral.”
As their titles suggest, the first two works arose from Shakespeare’s eponymous final stage work, the Tchaikovsky as inspiration, the Sibelius for an actual staged production, of which the orchestra will perform portions of two suites the composer extracted from the original score. In the concert’s final half, the famed Beethoven symphony bursts into a realistic thunderstorm in its fourth movement, marked “Allegro.”
The Shakespeare storm is seafaring, while the Beethoven is land bound. The three scores ingeniously differentiate between the two meteorological phenomena and present musical passages that may just have the audience searching for waterproof hooded squall coats, windbreakers and slush duck boots.
Of course, what’s Shakespeare without actors? Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s artistic director, Bonnie J. Monte, spoke yesterday to Examiner.com about her company’s unique collaboration with New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for the Sibelius centrepiece. “When Jacques and I first talked about it, he asked me to listen to the incidental music, and match pieces with the more famous and more beautiful texts from the play.”
Will the actors present spoken portions as a concert piece? Artistic Director Bonnie Monte says nay.
I’ve seen a couple concert pieces where the orchestra plays and then the actors talk, but I never thought they were very successful. Jacques and I thought we should do this in a way that was more organic, where both text and music offset each other, making them more integrally connected.
So music will play both as interludes and to underscore acted sections of the Shakespeare. She has come up with a “woven web of music, text, and non-speaking action that creates a minuscule snapshot of the world of Shakespeake’s drama.” Actors “will be fully costumed, with the play almost erupting around selections of Sibelius’ music.”
And who are the cast? Sherman Howard as Prospero is the drama’s focal point. Ariel, his feckless spritely assistant, will be performed by Robbie Collier Sublett. Victoria Mack takes the role of Miranda, Prospero’s daughter. And his nemesis, the grotesquely ugly Caliban, will be interpreted by Jon Barker. All are veterans of Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
The concert’s second half will show whether Beethoven can be upstaged by, well, the stage. The forecast, no matter how talented the actors, is for the stellar orchestra and their esteemed conductor to provide accompaniment where accompaniment is called for and otherwise to dazzle the audience with the many ways a symphonic storm can play.
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