Thursday, November 28, 2013

SSO Concerts for Children - Carnival of the Animals

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns was a French composer and is one of the first few composers Dumpling learnt about, in her music classes. The Carnival of the Animals was one of the first few CDs I bought for her to play in the car.

We caught Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery earlier this year as part of SSO's Concerts for Children and liked it a lot. Unlike the baby prom, the Children's Concert series had actors as part of the performance acting out a story line. 

With The Carnival of the Animals, it was similar with 2 actors and the orchestra playing the music as part of the story presented. The performance was staged at The Esplanade which had a nice long foyer area and there were animal standee "cut outs" and a backdrop placed for photo taking.

The idea is quite clever as it entertained children and parents alike prior to the show. :p 

No photography is allowed in the concert hall but I got a shot of the stage before the show started. The concept is kept simple with minimal props and the storyline presented by 2 actors from L'Arsenal à Musique known for its creative combination of animation, theatre and circus arts to introduce concert music to a broad audience. In this concert, the actors used colorful puppets and props to depict the movement and characteristics of the various animals - from the Lion's Royal March to the Dziggetai's swift movements (depicted by kick-ass scales played by 2 pianists who incidentally are twin sisters), to the call of the Cuckoo in the woods (depicted by the clarinet). 

I personally enjoyed the melody for the Aquarium as it was one of the pieces which had more musical instruments coming together as well as a really slow version of 'Galop infernal' (famously known as 'can-can') from Offenbach's operetta. The music for the heavy footsteps of the elephants was aptly depicted by the double bass too :) Dumpling's favorite was the piece on The Swan which was both graceful and beautiful.

While the performance was very enjoyable, I also felt that the orchestra was somewhat over shadowed by the actors. The up side was that actors were really good and had perfect comic timing. Completed with colorful costumes and props, they were visually pleasing. The down side was that the melodies ended up as a supporting role instead of being the 'lead character' as they were a tad short.

On the whole, the performance was very enjoyable. Like the SSO baby prom, there was an interactive segment where there was audience participation. The Concert for Children is definitely a great way to introduce the children to classical music! We will definitely be catching the next production - The Story of Babar, The Little Elephant.

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