From the Maryland Gazette ...
Call it Strathmore-upon-Avon, if you like: The six-month Washington Shakespeare Festival comes to Montgomery County this weekend with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Washington Shakespeare Theatre mixing it up at the Music Center.
It’s Symphony With a Twist, the BSO’s popular series that tries to tempt folks who usually don’t attend classical music concerts — and delight its loyal audience — with a little something out of the ordinary. Turns out the musicians like it, too.
‘‘We’re creative minds,” says Peter Landgren, Associate Principal Horn for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. ‘‘That’s one of the nice things about the Symphony With A Twist series. It keeps it fresh for us, and for our audience.”
The freshness begins with the program itself. Conductor Carlos Kalmar plans to offer the crowd-pleasing ‘‘Romeo and Juliet, Overture-Fantasy” by Tchaikovsky along with the overture to Otto Nicolai’s opera ‘‘The Merry Wives of Windsor” and Sir Edward Elgar’s symphonic poem ‘‘Falstaff.”
Landgren notes that ‘‘Tchaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a piece even a casual classical music listener could recognize in four notes.”
The other two, not so much — and yet that’s what makes them appealing.
‘‘What’s nice for the orchestra is that we get to revisit a workhorse, and then go to something fresh,” he says. ‘‘And there’s always a twist to the program. What will be enhancing the music is an acting performance by members of the Washington Shakespeare Theatre.”
Where there’s a Will
Just how did this collaboration come to be?
David Muse credits the Kennedy Center’s Michael Kaiser and Michael Kahn, Washington Shakespeare Theatre’s artistic director.
‘‘They had the idea of pulling together a citywide Shakespeare Festival,” says Muse, Shakespeare Theatre’s artistic associate director. ‘‘There are over a hundred events in the D.C.-Baltimore area.”
It isn’t an anniversary year for the Bard, who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 23, 1564, and died on the same day 52 years later. But, as Muse points out, no one needs an excuse to honor the prolific playwright.
‘‘There’s sort of an explosion of Shakespeare,” he says. ‘‘He’s just so amazing. His works have inspired so many artists in so many different media.
‘‘He writes so beautifully, and he captures the human condition so well. It’s not just theater artists who have been inspired.”
The Washington Shakespeare Festival is about honoring Shakespeare, yes, but it’s also about making connections.
Real life and legend, history and fantasy — everything in the world seems to have inspired Shakespeare, who wrote 10 histories, 10 tragedies and 16 comedies in addition to his poetry. But Shakespeare, through the ages, has inspired the world in turn: authors, actors, visual artists, filmmakers. And composers.
‘‘It’s something that, as an audience member, you rarely explore directly,” says Muse. ‘‘You might listen to Tchaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ or see the opera ‘Falstaff,’ but it’s rare to go to the source matter, to see the writing that inspired the music.”
To really see it, too — see it performed live with the echoes of the music still swirling around the concert hall. Muse says that attending this particular Symphony With a Twist is a snap whether or not you’re a Shakespeare buff or a fan of classical music.
‘‘The idea is that you can go in cold, or you can know the play intimately,” he says. ‘‘What you’ll see is how the energy of the play inspires the music — you see the flavor.”
It’s a flavor with magnified intensity, too.
‘‘For us onstage, it’s always about collaboration,” the horn player says. ‘‘We’re collaborating with each other, one person with 90 other people.
‘‘Now we get to collaborate with the Shakespeare Theatre, bringing these outside inspirations and stimulation right into the chemical mix of the orchestra. It’s a pure artistic collaboration.”
And a twist that’s sure to appeal across the bard. Uh, board.
The BSO’s Symphony With a Twist presents ‘‘Shakespeare: Love and Comedy” at 8 p.m. Friday in the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Tickets range from $25 to $78. Call 1-877-BSO-1444.