The Orange County Register
Cirque de la Symphonie wows Verizon
July 19, 2010
It's the silly season for classical music and it is likely that more people in Southern California heard a live classical concert this weekend than at any other time of the year. Up at the Hollywood Bowl, the venerable Los Angeles Philharmonic performed two nights of a "Bugs Bunny at the Symphony" program, playing soundtracks for Looney Tunes cartoons transmitted on giant screens.
Meanwhile, Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, the Pacific Symphony dug into a "Cirque de la Symphonie" agenda, serving as circus band for an amazing troupe of acrobats. The crowd was large and happy and ate it up, and rightly so.
Don't expect this critic to get all snobby. Just saying that maybe the music wasn't the main point of focus Saturday night, though it certainly added a certain classy something to the proceedings. But it wasn't exactly an evening for high brows.
The Georgia-based Cirque de la Symphonie is currently one of the busiest acts on the orchestral pops circuit. Members of the troupe perform feats of derring-do and legerdemain in front of and above live orchestras on stage. It looked dangerous on Saturday, but nothing untoward occurred. It looked impossible, too, but troupe members managed it. I kept thinking that I really need to do more sit-ups.
The various acrobatic routines are "choreographed" to, in this case, the light classics, but choreographed is probably too strong a word. It's more that they fit the music in a general aspect of mood and in various small points of timing. Cirque members work without a net and without safety harnesses. Every routine seen Saturday was a delight.
To the strains of John Williams' "Harry Potter" music, Christine Van Loo, an award-winning acrobatic gymnast (well, yeah), wrapped herself in aerial silks as if she were made of putty. She came back later and looked like she might kill herself on an aerial rope while the orchestra played Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre."
Aloysia Gavre, an alum of various circus schools, kicked it up a notch when she hung by her feet from an aerial hoop and swung out over the audience to the Bacchanale from Saint-Saens' "Samson and Delilah." Alexander Streltsov, a veteran cirque artist, twirled a three-dimensional cube niftily (to "Les Toreadors" from "Carmen") and added an elegant (though strenuous) routine on aerial silks himself (to some atmospheric music from "Attack of the Clones").
A delightful harlequin/mime, played by Vladimir Tsarkov, juggled various objects to different tunes, helped set up for the next routines, and generally gamboled about merrily. My 11-year-old guest enjoyed him the most.
Elena Tsarkova is apparently a boneless creature judging from her contortionist routine performed to the Waltz from Khachaturian's "Masquerade." Larissa Sherman twirled more hula hoops (including on the bun of her hair) than suggested by the owner's manual while the orchestra ran through Rimsky-Korsakov's "Danse des Bouffons."
The piece de resistance was a pair of strongmen, Darek and Jarek, bald, painted bronze, who muscled through a slow-motion routine of power, balance and contortion to a truncated version of "Bolero."
The Pacific Symphony's talented young assistant conductor, Maxim Eshkenazy, led the ensemble with a light touch and stylish taste. If "Danse Macabre" wasn't quite as wild as it could be, the Bacchanale was less cheesy than usual. On their own, Eshenazy and the orchestra provided a vibrant, rhythmically acute performance of Chabrier's "Espana" and lively, if hardly immaculate, accounts of Dvorak's "Carnival" Overture and Kabalevsky's Overture to "Colas Breugnon." Eshkenazy even gamely got involved in a magic act with the Tsarkovs at one point, as the orchestra carried on by itself with Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Reed Flutes."
The amplification was trebly, wiry in the strings, the tambourine a solo instrument, but I doubt many cared.
In short, a memorable, entertaining, easy-to-like evening that, if repeated, will surely draw them in again.