Conductor Jere Flint led the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) in a delightful performance of Aladdin and the Arabian Nights. The concert was part of the ASO’s Family Concert Series that is geared towards bringing children to the orchestra.
Jere Flint is actually the ASO’s Youth Orchestra Chair as well as a staff conductor for the ASO. He develops and conducts the Family Concert Series in addition to the Symphony Street concerts for children. He is also in charge of the Concerts for Young People that is geared more towards elementary and middle school aged children. This is now his thirtieth year as the music director of one of the top youth orchestra programs in the country, Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. When he is not conducting, Mr. Flint is actually part of the cello section of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Not only did the Orchestra perform singles from Aladdin and the Arabian Nights, they were joined by the Enchantment Theatre Company for a performance of the Persian story Scheherazade!. This was a special performance based on the Russian Composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, musical suite of Scheherazade!.
The Enchantment Theatre Company boasts a history of performance of almost 30 years. Founded in 1979, the Company is originally Philadelphia-based and has a distinctive art form about them. With a combination of masked actors, colorful costumes and music, the Company does nothing less than enchant the audience. The Company has toured all over the world in places like the Lincoln Center in New York City, Washington D.C. and even places as far as Hong Kong and Singapore. The group has appeared alongside several orchestras around the country including Atlanta, Cleveland, Houston and Philadelphia. Some other productions of the Enchantment Theatre Company encompass productions Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Pinocchio and The Snow Queen.
The story of Scheherazade! is an exciting and fascinating one. It is centered around the famous ruler of Baghdad Sultan Shakhriar. The Sultan is tricked by his wife and becomes very angry towards her and ultimately has her executed. His method of revenge is to harness all of his anger towards all of the beautiful woman in his kingdom and marry them one night and have them killed by the morning.
His kingdom was becoming fearful for their daughters because of his tyrannical rulership over the entire kingdom; almost nothing could be done to stop him. Then there was Scheherazade, the clever and beautiful daughter of the Sultan’s advisor. She volunteered herself to marry the cruel Sultan knowing his love for a good story. On the night of their wedding she began to tell the Sultan intriguing and consuming stories. As legend goes, she waited until day break to get to the climax of the story so that he would invite her back to finish the story. Her execution was eventually put off two and a half years and 1001 stories later and then finally completely abandoned.
Scheherazade’s stories are famous all over the world. She told him the stories of the Sultan of Sinbad’s voyages to the sea, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Aladdin and his magic lamp. Stories are told in several ways and in Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s rendition, the fascinating story of Scheherazade is told by music alone, leaving the audience to imagine the stories.
In the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s version, the orchestra as a whole plays the music representing the Sultan, the first violinist plays the pure tunes of Scheherazade and the percussion plays the sounds of the waves in the sea. In this way, the ASO does a beautiful job portraying the characters through music alone.
The Enchantment Theatre Company portrays the characters to aide the audience in visualizing the captivating tale. The “human puppets” mix masks, colorful costumes and contemporary dance to bewitch the audience and bring them into the world of the Sultan and Scheherazade. The Ensemble wore plain white bottoms, shirts and even head coverings under their costumes to completely immerse themselves into the character they played. Even though one of the Company’s actors came out before the performance to read the story of Scheherazade, one’s imagination had to be kicked into full gear to know exactly what was going on.
Although the show was geared toward younger children, I think that it was probably better suited for a middle school and older audience. There was a lot going on that a younger child would not understand other than the bright and flashy colors of the costumes. Judging from the antsy audience, who ranged from two to grandparents, the show only being an hour long was the perfect length.
The beginning pieces played by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra were the perfect prelude to the Enchantment Theatre Company’s outstanding performance of the famous tale of Scheherazade.