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‘Carmina Burana’

Season-opening collaboration presents timeless masterpiece

By Bonnie Blackburn
The fall arts season opens with a bang Sept. 21 and 23 as the Fort Wayne Ballet, the Heartland Festival Chorus and Orchestra and the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir combine forces to present “Carmina Burana,” a timeless masterpiece of choral and dance interpretations of 24 medieval poems set to Carl Orff’s lush and dynamic musical composition.

The original “Carmina Burana” manuscript consists of 254 songs and poems that were written in the 11th and 12th centuries by monks and detailed life in those times. Singers and dancers tell the story of Fortune’s Wheel, ever turning from fickle fortune, waning wealth, spring’s joy, life’s transience and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gambling and lust, according to information provided by Heartland.

There are stories of love and morals, as well as mockery of the Catholic Church and drinking and gaming songs. The original manuscripts were found in 1803 in the Benedictine monastery of Benediktbeuern, near Munich. Orff’s 1936 opus paired the poems with music and quickly entered the mainstream. The opening song, “O, Fortuna” has been used in countless movies and TV shows and will be instantly recognized.

One of the most popular pieces of modern classical music, “Carmina Burana” combines music and voice in a powerful series of songs that will be paired with dance for an unmatched experience. The performance marries the unique talents of the three groups. A note of caution, however: the ballet’s dancers will be wearing costumes that leave little to the imagination, designed by the ballet’s longtime costumer Tess Heet.

“This is a PG-rated performance,” said the ballet’s Artistic Director Karen Gibbons-Brown. “There’s a lot of flesh-colored costuming. Everything is covered. We’ll do it tastefully.

“It’s sung in Latin … and the translations are not always socially polite. It’s about young love, tainted love, courtly love,” she added. “The content of the story is about life’s travails. There’s not a tutu or a tiara in sight. We feel like people need to know this is not ‘The Nutcracker.’”

Heartland choral director Robert Nance said he’d long wanted to perform “Carmina Burana” with the ballet.

“The whole idea of collaborating is … part of our mission. It’s enriching for the community,” he said. “The whole idea of movement for the choral and the instrumental (part) — it just makes sense.”

Nance said the performance’s subject matter is “very real, very earthy.”

“The monks were out there on the streets, getting dirty. Their whole philosophy wasn’t always appreciated by the hierarchy of the church. It was about being as human as they could be. At the same time,  … (the monks were) the keepers of history. That’s what they’re doing. It’s quite revealing of what life was like when they were writing. These (poems) pick out a microcosm of what (life) means, from birth to death and everything in between,” Nance said.

Bringing the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir in allows the children a chance to collaborate with the adult choir and dancers, said the choir’s executive director, Denise Beights. The children will be singing a section Orff wrote specifically for children’s choirs.

“This is a great opportunity for us to expose the children to such a great work and to work with professional musicians and the adult choir,” Beights said. “The kids are very excited about the opportunity. Collaborating with adult choirs is one of the big things the kids look forward to.”

Guest percussionists from Ball State University will also perform, according to information provided by Heartland.

Tickets are $32 for adults, $27 for seniors and youth. Performances begin at 8 p.m. Sept. 21 and 2 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Arts United Center.

“We stand together as three community groups coming together to create a very sensational piece,” Nance said. “If we don’t sell the place out, it will be a travesty.”

Posted: Thu, 08/30/2012 - 10:10 am
Last updated: Mon, 10/29/2012 - 1:47 pm