Attend a performance at Symphony Hall this Memorial Day weekend, and you may find yourself unable to take your eyes off the action on and above the stage. And most likely, neither will the orchestra members.
That’s because while the orchestra performs classical favorites on stage, performers from Atlanta’s Cirque de la Symphonie will literally be flying around them. Aerialists will spin and swoop overhead, strongmen will balance themselves on top of each other and a contortionist will bend her body like a rubber band.
The touring company joins the Phoenix Symphony for the second year, under the direction of guest conductor Hector Guzman of the San Angelo Symphony in Texas. As part of the APS Pops Series, the orchestra performs familiar classical songs paired with thrilling circus acts.
“The show has become so successful that virtually every symphony company in the U.S. has hosted it,” Guzman said. “It combines two artistic disciplines that are each so beautiful on their own.”
The audience loves the show, Guzman said.
“The audience can’t help it, and you hear ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ through the whole show. The show goes in a complete crescendo, building toward the aerial acts and then the strongmen act at the end.”
The repertoire changes from show to show, and the Phoenix performances will include pieces from “Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake” by Tchaikovsky, Bizet’s “Carmen,” and Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor.”
While the music is all familiar, Guzman said it’s a challenge to have only two practice sessions with the orchestra, one with just the orchestra and one with the full cast.
“The music is quite difficult and the orchestra really doesn’t have a moment’s rest,” Guzman said. “When the acts take a break, the orchestra plays three or four solo pieces. We have to be very efficient and manage our time.”
Aerialist Christine Van Loo has been touring with the company since it was formed in 2007.
“Performing with the live music, with a symphony orchestra beneath you, is just amazing and so classy,” she said.
Van Loo has two acts in Cirque de la Symphonie. One is a duo aerial ballet with fabric, and the other is a solo act in which she climbs a rope and spins around it like a helicopter.
While Van Loo and her fellow performers have their acts memorized, sometimes so do the musicians.
“I remember an orchestra member told me once that he memorized the entire concert so he could watch us during the performance,” she said.
All of last year’s performances sold out, so patrons are encouraged to buy tickets early