The "Ode to Joy" ending of Beethoven's monumental Ninth Symphony is a passionate, dramatic piece of music. But "dramatic" will take on a whole new meaning when Seiji Ozawa, music director of the Boston Symphony, leads the "Ode to Joy" as the grand finale of the 1998 Winter Olymics Opening Ceremony in Nagano, Japan, Feb. 7 at 11 AM (for those trying of you trying to figure out the time differential, that's Feb. 6, 9 PM ET).
In an unprecented event made possible by state-of-the-art satellite technology from NHK, choruses from five continents will join Maestro Ozawa, eight soloists, a 2,000-strong chorus from Nagano and the newly formed Winter Olympic Orchestra -- thus creating a truly worldwide chorus for the finale of Beethoven's Ninth.
The production will be conducted from the Nagano Prefectural Culture Hall and relayed to the Opening Ceremonies site at Minami Nagaon Sports Park -- and then broadcast directly to viewers around the world.
The various chorus ensembles participating in the event are located in Australia, China, Germany, South Africa and the U.S. And at the climactic phrase, "All men will become brothers," those in attendance at the opening ceremonies will rise to their feet, adding an additional 50,000 voices to the grand chorus (while a dance ensemble, choreographed by Gen Horiuchi, spreads itself throughout the stadium).
For such a mammoth undertaking, the "Ode to Joy" will have eight vocal soloists rather than the customary four: Polish soprano Izabela Labuda, U.S. soprano Claudia Waite, Chinese alto Zheng Cao (who now resides in the U.S.), British mezzo Ruth Peel, U.S. tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes, Russian bass Denis Sedov (who today lives in Israel and France) and U.S. bass Kevin Short. In keeping with the international spirit of the event, the Winter Olympic Orchestra is to be composed of musicians from 27 orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, London Symphony, Mito Chamber Orchestra, New Japan Philharmonic, Orchestre National, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, Toronto Symphony and the Vienna Philharmonic -- along with the host ensemble, Japan's Saito Kinen Festival Orchestra (which was co-founded by Maestro Ozawa).
-- By Rebecca Paller