Review: Philadelphia Orchestra’s Bizet/Shchedrin “Carmen” Suite, with dancers on hoverboards

Posted on: March 5, 2021

“When the Brian Sanders’ JUNK company first performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra a couple of years ago … aerialist-dancers delivered the story of Romeo and Juliet with a certain sense of daring,” writes Peter Dobrin in Friday’s (3/6) Philadelphia Inquirer. “In their current collaboration … there is no high-wire suspense in this Digital Stage meeting of the minds over musical themes from Bizet’s Carmen … now streaming online. Musicians and conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin set down the score in Verizon Hall first, then the recording was played back in JUNK’s … studio, where the performers responded with their energetic brand of dancerly theatrics…. The razor’s-edge score by Rodion Shchedrin … orchestrated for strings and percussion … and unveiled at the Bolshoi in 1967 [is] a radical recasting originally meant to accompany dance…. Neither Bizet nor Shchedrin could have imagined this music set to hoverboards, but the modern self-balancing scooter is key to one of the suite’s most magnetic scenes, the opening dance…. It’s both beautiful and creepy, made all the more powerful by a (fairly) pure stretch of Bizet’s music…. The tidy package of a COVID-sized orchestra, reality-bending score, and performers cloaked in theatrical masks spinning to dark tragedy seems about right.”