A Theater Orchestra: New Haven Symphony to play at the Long Wharf, Arts & Ideas and the Shubert.


The New Haven Symphony Orchestra has announced its 20014-15 season, plus a couple of special events.

I mention it here not just because I’ve been doing a little more classical music criticism lately, and not just because I think symphonies these days are only half a step removed from theaters in how they operate.

I mention it mainly ‘cause the NHSO is working with three local theater institutions this season: the Long Wharf, the Shubert and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas.

Not only that, some of the concerts have show music, from Crazy for You, Candide and West Side Story.

The Long Wharf gig appears to be a special event that’s part of the theater’s 50th anniversary, and takes place on theater’s mainstage in January 2015. It’s Benjamin Britten’s short 1957 opera Noye’s Fludde, based on the Chester Mystery Cycle version of the Noah story from Genesis. The piece is written for a small classical ensemble, opera singers and a “congregation” which sings along on several hymns. The NHSO listing says Noye’s Fludde is “featuring students from Greater New Haven,” so presumably that’s the congregation.

I’ve called the Long Wharf for more details on this one; a spokesman was surprised this info was already out there. The theater’s announcing its own 2014-15 season later this month. What I can say now is that this is a one- or two-night special event, not part of the theater’s main season.

The NHSO’s Arts & Ideas event happens in June, before the NHSO season starts in earnest this fall. The symphony will be backing Dianne Reeves at the celebrated vocalist’s free concert on New Haven Green, June 21. Just before that concert there’ll be an “all-musicians play-in” on the Green. Music Haven’s Haven String Quartet ran a similar event last year. This year, apparently NHSO’s involved too.

When I first heard (at the A&I’s big announcement last Thursday) that the symphony was performing as part of this summer’s festival, I immediately asked if the NHSO was also slated to be part of the city-sponsored Music on the Green series on the selfsame New Haven Green later in the summer. (The NHSO was a part of that series for the last two summers.) Apparently not. The Arts & Ideas show will be the symphony’s big outdoor event of the summer.

Now, what does the Symphony itself have planned? The 2014-15 NHSO season is titled “A Season of Tradition & Innovation. Some of the innovations extend beyond who’s playing what. More performance venues are coming into play. And “flexible subscription packages” been created to reflect the variety of programming.

Here’s the main season, subject (as they say) to change:

Oct. 2, 2014 at Woolsey Hall: Beethoven & The Don, with Strauss’ “Don Juan,” Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, op. 19 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67

October 16, 2014 at the Shubert : American Rhapsody, with Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Appalachian Spring” and “Letter from Home,” Gershwin’s “Overture from Crazy for You” and “Rhapsody in Blue,” with 12-year-old piano prodigy Emily Bear as the piano soloist. The young Miss Bear is also playing a classical variation on the B. Bumble & The Stingers instrumental “Bumble Boogie” (which itself is a rock variation on “Flight of the Bumblebee”).

November 20 at St. Mary’s Church: Virtue & Redemption, with local composer Christopher Theofanidis’ new work Virtue (commissioned by the NHSO) and Puccini’s “Suor Angelica. Guest soprano is Tony Arnold.

December 18 at Woolsey Hall:The Joy of the Season. Handel’s Messiah, featuring Christ Church Choir.

January 15, 2015 at Woolsey Hall: Jupiter’s Passion. Stravinsky’s Concerto in D for Strings, Barber’s Violin Concerto op. 14, Dvorak’s “Romance for Violin & Orchestra in F minor” and Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony. Guest violinist is Hye-Jin Kim.

February 19, 2015 at Woolsey Hall: Parfum de la Nuit, with Berlioz’s Roman Carnival, Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 1, Canteloube’s “Songs of the Auvergne,” Ravel’s “Daphnis & Chloe Suites 1& 2.” Guest conductor is Ransom Wilson. Guest soprano: Amanda Hall.

March 12, 2015 at the Shubert: Ansel Adams, Bernstein & Brubeck, with a world premiere NHSO-commissioned piece by artist-in-residence Chris Brubeck inspired by the photography of Ansel Adams, Bernstein’s Overture from Candide, a Chris Brubeck trombone concerto and Duke Ellington’s The River Suite. Guest trombonist: who else? Chris Brubeck.

April 2, 2015 at Woolsey Hall: Triumphant Voices, with Beethoven’s Ninth and Schoenberg’s “A Survivor from Warsaw.” Guest vocals: The Fairfield County Chorale.

May 28, 2015 at the Shubert: Cinematic Dances, with Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice (which most people know from Disney’s Fantasia), Corigliano’s

“Chaconne” from The Red Violin, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and Ravel’s Bolero (aka Bo Derek’s theme from 10),

That’s the main season. All those shows fall on Thursday and start at 7:30 p.m.

Not unlike theater programmers at the Long Wharf, A&I, Shubert and elsewhere, the NHSO regularly works with themes and added conceptual elements. Like any subscription based theater, it must find a balance between classical works and new ones. It must also mix things up by trying different configurations, or different performance venues.

The NHSO season announcement is fascinating for how it deals with the problem of pacifying its older subscribers while trying to lure younger ones.

I just LOVE the idea of Beethoven’s greatest hit, his ninth symphony, sharing a bill with Schoenberg’s gut-wrenching modern war piece. The Emily Bear night sounds like crazy fun. The Chris Brubeck tribute to Ansel Adams promises special effects. And the musical theater overtures? We can’t take for granted anymore that Broadway revivals of Bernstein and Gershwin shows will have the resources to play these scores as originally written.

Head to your local orchestra, and be overwhelmed.