Arkansas Philharmonic gets theatrical with Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique”

Posted on: February 5, 2020

Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra Executive Director Jason Miller “freely admits he wants to ‘trick’ his audiences into coming to an Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra performance. But it’s for all the right reasons,” he says, writes Becca Martin-Brown in Sunday’s (2/2) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock). “ ‘We want diverse audiences to experience the music in a new, different way,’ he explained.… In the case of two back-to-back concerts Feb. 5, Miller has brought together theater, music and a world-class visuals arts setting for ‘Symphonie Fantastique: Obsession, Murder, and Unrequited Love.’ ” Miller contacted John Walch, head of the M.F.A. program at the University of Arkansas Department of Theater, who adapted it by adding new text, “ ‘co-written by M.F.A. candidates Lauren Ferebee and Brendan Beseth and me,’ says Walch. ‘The basic story,’ according to Walch, ‘is that composer Hector Berlioz wrote this symphony to get a girl, a popular actress in Paris during the 1830s named Harriet Smithson. But the way he pursued her was uncommonly bizarre.’ … All in all, says Miller, he and APO music director Steven Byess ‘are thrilled with this partnership, and we know it will highlight the music in a fun and creative way.’ ”