One hundred years ago in Paris, the lights went up on the premiere performance of The Rite of Spring. In Stravinsky’s music and Nijinsky’s choreography, every note, every step cried out for revolution. The piece changed music and dance forever. Internationally celebrated conductor JoAnn Falletta will lead the magnificent piece at the end of May. For tickets, please visit vafest.org or call (757) 282-2822.
Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring will be performed on the exact day of its 100th anniversary. The piece was extremely controversial in both the classical and ballet worlds when it premiered, due to its avant-garde nature. Though not nearly as controversial now, how do you expect audiences to respond to the renowned piece this year?
Audiences of today are made of tougher stuff than one hundred years ago! I think that a century after the premier, our listeners will find the Rite of Spring fascinating, dramatic and totally thrilling. It still will sound fresh and new- that is the power of a great classic- but hopefully not as frightening as it was in 1913!
Have you conducted “The Rite of Spring” with the Virginia Symphony before? Or with any other groups? Can you please tell us a little bit about that experience?
I have conducted the Rite of Spring before- with the Virginia Symphony and with other orchestras- and each time it was very challenging and extremely exciting. It is also a special chance to be a part of “music history”, to be in the middle of a piece that really changed the course of music forever.
What are some of the challenges in conducting this particular piece?
The Rite is very difficult rhythmically- it is hard to imagine how the first orchestra was able to learn this! It also asks individual instruments to go places they have not gone before, to stretch their technical abilities to the limit. Our players are really looking forward to this challenge.
Can you describe the process you go through when preparing for a performance?
I study the piece a great deal alone- mostly in complete silence- for many many hours. At the same time, our musicians are practicing their parts with diligence. We come together for four brief rehearsals to make everything work- that is like magic! And of course we have the fabulous Richmond Ballet playing a huge role with us as well.
What makes the Virginia Arts Festival such a special series of events?
The VAF is an enormously creative organization- running the gamut from towering masterpieces to lighthearted fun and everything in between. And everything is performed on the highest level of excellence. The VSO and I are so proud to be a part of the Festival. We have had some of the most memorable moments of our artistic lives because of our collaborations with the Festival- including Mahler Symphony No. 8 and Bernstein MASS.
What other performances in the Virginia Arts Festival are you most looking forward to?
We are also looking forward to our “other” Stravinsky evening with the great Todd Rosenlieb Dance Company - Les Noces and Octet. And I love the chance to be in the audience at as many performances as possible.