Past Performances: Symphony Fantastique

As the hubbub around the wedding winds down, I find myself wanting to write an ordinary post. Last weekend the Sven and I went to an orchestra concert by the local symphony, and like all good performances, it made me think. The program consisted of Saint-Saëns “Bacchanale” from Samson et Dalila, Poulenc “Concerto for 2 Pianos in D minor” and “Symphonie Fantastique, op. 14” by Berlioz.

First off, I love live music. Like, really love it. Obviously I enjoy dancing to music, live or recorded, but there’s something special about a concert, where you have no choice but to be still and contemplate the magical sounds washing through your brain. After the (thouroughly enjoyable) chaos that was the wedding and the international honeymoon, two and a half hours of sitting and listening with my love was a welcome reprieve. One of the things that’s lovely about being a ‘real’ adult with a ‘real’ job is having the ability to go to all these concert and hear these pieces I loved as a kid in person. Growing up, my mom had a CD of “Symphony Fantastique” that I…appropriated…and listened to over and over and over again, drawn by the lush, theatrical score and the vivid and macabre story. I haven’t heard the piece in its entirety since I was an early teen at home, and the concert reminded me fondly of the hours spent, dancing wildly in the living room, acting out the execution and the subsequent satanic opium trip of movements four and five….yeah I was a weird kid….

One thing that occurred to me while listening was this: Given “Symphony Fantastique’s” detailed story, images, and vibrant score, has anyone ever choreographed a ballet to it? Brief poking around the inter-webs reveals that there have indeed been ballet interpretations of the symphony, but the only one I could find in this century was a small production by an Australian company–which is a shame, honestly, given the propensity of the ballet world towards tragic tales of doomed love, madness, and the dead. (See: Giselle, Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, etc.) Me being me, I of course have ideas on how to turn it into a show. My creative brain turned on during movement two, the ball scene, as that section is, essentially, an inconsistent Viennese Waltz. Now, anyone who’s read this blog or talked to me about my choreographic aspirations will know that I long to combine ballroom and ballet in a single piece, and this one would seem to be a perfect opportunity. The reason I say it’s an ‘inconsistent’ V. Waltz is due to the significant rubato throughout–something that grates on the nerves of strict ballroom dancers but wouldn’t be an issue in a choreographed setting.

Movements 2, 3, and 4 would be perfect, I think, for a balletic interpretation. Movement one is a bit long for my current tastes, though there is definitely plenty ‘going on’ in the music to work with. Movement five was the favorite of my morbid young self, but it’s rather uneven–building and losing momentum over and over again, something that is exciting to play, but less conducive to dancing to an exciting conclusion. In any case, this brainstorming is the reason I attend concerts. By hearing music in a different setting and by new musicians, I gather ideas and inspiration like dust on a shelf, storing them away until the day comes that I find opportunities to bring them into the world. Until I can make shows of my own, I shall have to be content with enjoying the performances of others.

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