Magic for Eye and Ear
A woman dangles from a pair of long red scarves 30 feet above the stage, the strength of her body the only factor keeping her airborne. A juggler keeps seven rings afloat with incredible precision. A man balances in a one-hand stand — atop another man’s head. They do it all to the music of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, on stage right behind (or beneath) them.
This was neither dream nor fantasy, but before-your-eyes reality Friday night, as eight Cirque de la Symphonie performers joined resident conductor Stuart Chafetz and the MSO Pops at Marcus Center Uihlein Hall in a successful symbiosis of fine art and fine circus talent. Repeat performances are set for 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 30. (No Sunday concert this weekend.)
The live soundtrack wasn’t circus music. The MSO played the masters — Bernstein, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Rimsky-Korsakov, Bach and more — as Cirque acrobats, contortionists, strongmen and a juggler performed solo and in pairs. The production was simple; the astonishing feats, carefully choreographed and timed with the music, were enough. You might imagine an ache in your back as you watch a young contortionist shape her body in ways you thought could only be achieved with computer animation. Your mouth will gape when you see the rope climber curl into fetal position and drop to the stage in slow motion. Two aerial acts will leave you breathless. During a waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, two aerialists suspended on twin sets of white scarves perform a stunning overhead ballet.
All the Cirque performers are of course in peak physical condition.
It wouldn’t have been the same with recorded music; the MSO held its own in the amazement department. Cirque will keep your eyes wide open; Chafetz and the MSO will do the same for your ears.