Review: Milwaukee Symphony’s semi-staged “Peer Gynt,” with chorus, dialogue, puppets, and more

Posted on: March 29, 2022

“Classical music lovers … may know … Grieg’s famous ‘Peer Gynt,’ but they certainly do not know it in the innovative, utterly captivating, yet true-to-the-music performance given by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and music director Ken-David Masur on Friday,” writes Elaine Schmidt in Sunday’s (3/27) Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The semi-staged performance … combined orchestra, chorus, a cast of 10, poetical spoken dialog, puppetry, and theatrical sets, costumes, and lighting, a hardanger fiddle and a lute. Bill Barclay [distilled] the play and music to about two hours, translated the poetical spoken text into modern-day, vernacular English, and interpolated contemporary references…. The result … was witty and engaging … Creatively set on two movable platforms, three trunks, a few footstools and chairs and some stylized trees, designed by Cristina Todesco, and dressed in wonderfully detailed costumes and puppets by Charles Schoonmaker, it was full of energy and fun…. Masur and the orchestra delivered a vibrant performance … moving from delicate underscoring to broad, sweeping passages that conveyed a feeling of musical abandon while retaining finesse, technical precision and balanced ensemble work. The MSO Chorus, prepared by director Cheryl Frazes-Hill, created a character of its own, singing with warmth and power.”