Saturday, May 31, 2014

'Cirque de la Symphonie': Remarkable dexterity and control shared from the symphony stage

Among the many ways music can contribute to visually accessible performance media, 'Cirque de la Symphonie' is perhaps the most spectacular. A full symphony orchestra adds so much more to what is already a mesmerizing display of precision acrobatics, graceful and appealing props and costumes, and extraordinary muscular control and balance.

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is ending its 2013-14 pops season this weekend with four shows by this international troupe. (Remaining are tonight's 8 o'clock show and Sunday afternoon's "symFUNY Sundays Series" performance at 3.)

Tsarkov applies foot dexterity to rings in an appearance with another orchestra.
Conducted by Jack Everly, who a couple of days ago extended his contract as ISO pops music director through the 2022-23 season, Friday's performance seemed close to flawless — a couple of well-covered juggling drops being the sole exception.

The orchestra was putting its best foot forward, too. The pieces it performed without Cirque members onstage came off well. Only Chabrier's "Espana" sounded routine.

I've rarely heard Shostakovich's "Festive" Overture performed so free from bombast. The quiet portions held the audience's attention, because they conveyed the sense of pent-up energy about to be released. A couple of other Russian warhorses — both by Dmitri Kabalevsky — glowed and danced agreeably.  The first one, the "Galop" from "The Comedians," accompanied clown-juggler Vladimir Tsarkov.  It proved to be a palate cleanser for Don Sebesky's droll arrangement of "Comedy Tonight," the opening song in Stephen Sondheim's "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."

With its percussion punctuation — a display of novelty instruments not often encountered beyond old
Cables and fabric serve Streltsov and Van Loo well.
Spike Jones recordings — the arrangement recycled the "Galop" and threaded it through the melody, tucking in along the way quotes from Strauss' "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" and Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.

It made for a lively prelude to one of the program's lyrical numbers, the incredibly intricate aerial performance of Alexander Streltsov and Christine Van Loo to the Waltz from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake." Twisting and turning among suspended red silks, the duo took the breath away, particularly in their wide sweeps aloft above orchestra and audience.

Another Tchaikovsky waltz, from "The Sleeping Beauty" ballet, provided a fine showcase for Elena Tsarkova. A contortionist who blends in well-knit choreography, she used two high stools placed side by side,  which offered all the arena she needed to display her extraordinary suppleness.

Gravity-defying poses made up the program's conclusion.
Before intermission, the act drawing the biggest ovation from the capacity crowd at the Hilbert Circle Theatre was Aloysia Gavre and Andrey Moraru. They made something daring, sensuous and exactly balanced out of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio Espagnol." It was the one substitution on the ISO's program as printed, replacing a Marquez "Danzon" for the same performers.

In the second half, the segment that generated the most audience astonishment was the finale. The stately virtuosity of the male duo Jarek and Darek — to well-known, exciting music by Strauss and Respighi — featured seemingly impossible, well-judged and -balanced formations by the two men on a raised platform. Superb muscular control and sensitive rapport made precarious poses not only possible, but graceful as well. One pose was folded smoothly into the next, each one a seeming contradiction of everyday physics.

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