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Life’s a Stage for Symphony

Collaborations with local theatres highlights ASO season.

This season, director Kim Allen Kluge will lead the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra through a theatrical journey, from Beethoven to Ellington to Elvis.

"This is part of his multi-arts approach," said Mollie Danforth, executive director for the symphony.

She said the symphony is partnering with several local theater groups in its 2006-07 season, working together to bring more than a dozen well-known pieces to life.

As Kluge writes in his introduction to the symphony season: "Music has its own intrinsic poetry and drama. When paired with other ‘dramatic’ art forms the musical experience can be riveting indeed. New perspectives and layers of meaning offer fresh ways to understand and enjoy the music."

Performers from Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia, MetroStage, Shakespeare Theatre, Signature Theatre and Little Theatre of Alexandria will augment the symphony’s works with songs and monologues.

All shows are performed in the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center, located on the Northern Virginia Community College campus in Alexandria, 3001 N Beauregard St.

Season subscriptions are available, ranging from $145-$330 for adults, $130-$330 for seniors, and $55-$330 for students. Single tickets range from $40-$80 for adults, $35-$80 for seniors, and $20-$80 for students. For ticket and show information, call 703-548-0885 or visit www.alexsym.org.

Here’s a look at the upcoming ASO season:

"WORDS OF WISDOM, WORDS OF WOE"

The first program in this season of symphony and theater collaboration is, naturally, infused with drama. Kluge has selected three works that stir hefty emotions — musically, and in one famous case, cinematically.

"Words of Wisdom, Words of Woe" is a joint venture with the Alexandria Symphony and Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, scheduled for Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. at the Schlesinger Center. The concert is underwritten in memory of Harry L. Brock, Jr. by the Brock Family.

The late British composer William Walton scored three of Sir Laurence Olivier’s Shakespeare films including 1948’s "Hamlet," which was the first British film to win the Best Picture Academy Award. The ASO will perform that score for this performance.

Johannes Brahms’s "Violin Concerto" will also be performed, with a significant guest appearance by Midori, an internationally renowned soloist. A prodigy at age 11, the now-veteran performer is as famous for her talents on violin as she is for her tireless philanthropy and charity towards community organizations that encourage music education.

The final piece of the performance is Ludwig Van Beethoven’s classic "Ode To Joy (Symphony No. 9)." The ASO will be joined by performers from The Metropolitan Chorus & Heritage Signature Chorale, NOVA Community Chorus and Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia. Virginia soloists include Lisa Archibeque (Soprano), Elaine Dalbo (Mezzo-soprano), Joshua Saxon (Tenor), and John Dooley (Bass).

The Opera Theater of Northern Virginia was first formed in 1961 in Arlington, and is the second-oldest opera company in continuous production in the D.C. Metro area. From Nov. 12-18, the group will perform a family opera based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor and the Nightingale" at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre in Arlington.

"ALL THAT JAZZ"

On Nov. 4, the Alexandria Symphony celebrates a trio of artists whose arrival in their specific genre of music changed it from that point forward.

And, in their own distinct ways, managed to convey the spirit of improvisation that’s the lifeblood of jazz.

Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev died in 1953, but managed — through triumphs and missteps — to be one of the most distinct musical influencers of the 20th century. His restrained "Classical Symphony" will be performed by the ASO at "All That Jazz," which begins at 8 p.m. at the Schlesinger Center.

Another musical trailblazer, Frederic Chopin, will have his "Piano Concerto in E minor" performed in the show. Featured soloist Carlos Rodriguez will be on piano for the piece. Rodriguez is a sensational pianist who has earned recognition for his versatility, ranging from Spanish music to Mozart.

Another guest star for this performance is well-known to local theater fans after his starring role in "Ellington" at MetroStage this season: Jimi Ray Malory, who will perform along with Lori Williams and William Knowles. Malory’s turn as jazz master Duke Ellington earned raves and large crowds at MetroStage, which partners with the ASO for this performance.

"WHERE DREAMS DWELL"

Shakespeare and Elvis, together at last.

The third featured show of the ASO season is a collaboration with Shakespeare Theatre on Feb. 3, 2007 at the Schlesinger Center at 8 p.m.

Part of the Shakespeare in Washington festival scheduled for the first part of next year in the D.C. metro area, it’s three very different interpretations of the classic supernatural comedy "A Midsummer Night’s Dream." The Shakespeare Theatre will perform excerpts from the play throughout the evening.

First is a ballet composed by rocker Elvis Costello called "Il Sogno," or "The Dream." Costello’s full-length classic effort, inspired by Shakespeare, was originally supposed to be performed by the ASO last season. Those plans were scuttled when the composer decided to perform it on his own. "Costello had a reservation with the music that if he was performing it, it had to be pulled back," said Danforth.

The late British musician Benjamin Britten composed his operatic "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" for The Aldeburgh Festival; an event Britten created about 50 years ago to showcase a variety of musical forms. It’s known for faultlessly capturing the whimsical collection of characters in the piece.

Finally, the ASO will perform an interpretation by Erich Korngold of Felix Mendelssohn’s classic themes. Korngold rearranged Mendelssohn’s work for the 1935 film version of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," and the ASO will put its own stamp in that classic score.

A shortened version of this concert will be presented at the National Gallery of Art on Jan. 28, 2007 at 6:30 p.m.

"GLORIOUS LOVE, TRAGIC LOVE"

On March 3, 2007, the ASO will partner with Signature Theatre for "Glorious Love, Tragic Love." The show is scheduled for 8 p.m. at the Schlesinger Center. Once again, Shakespeare is at the forefront, as "Romeo and Juliet" serves as the influence for four pieces performed by the ASO.

Master film composer Henry Mancini’s rearrangement of Nino Rota’s "Love Theme To Romeo and Juliet" uses Rota’s score from Franco Zeffirelli’s Oscar-winning 1968 drama.

Hector Berlioz, the late 19th century composer, considered his interpretation of the Shakespeare classic to be one of his finest works. Tchaikovsky’s "Overture – Fantasy" will be featured by the ASO; the composer’s "Romeo and Juliet" is considered his first masterpiece.

Perhaps the most famous American interpretation of "Romeo and Juliet" is "West Side Story." Selections from Leonard Bernstein’s classic score will also be featured.

Signature Theatre soloists Erin Driscoll, soprano, and Tim Tourbin, tenor, will work with the ASO during the performance.

"OUR AMERICAN LIFE"

In collaboration with the Little Theatre of Alexandria, "Our American Life" examines not only the dramatic spirit but also the American spirit, through several landmark theatrical works. The final joint ASO performance is scheduled for May 5, 2007, at 8 p.m. at the Schlesinger Center.

André Previn’s score from "A Streetcar Named Desire" is showcased. The composer took Tennessee Williams’s classic, which was lauded as a play and as a film, and turned it into an opera that debuted in San Francisco in 1998.

Robert Ward won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for his transformation of Arthur Miller’s classic play into an opera, and that work is featured by the ASO in this show.

"Our Town" is one of those shows that seems like it has been performed by nearly every high school and college in the nation. Aaron Copland’s score for the 1940 film version of the stage play was nominated for an Academy Award, and the ASO will perform it here.

Antonín Dvorák’s "Symphony of the New World" is the other piece the ASO will perform. It’s considered the late composer’s most popular work.

The Little Theatre of Alexandria actor Mike Baker Jr. will perform a monologue during the show. The show will also be in conjunction with The Art League and Paint Alexandria; Danforth said that some of the pieces from last year’s Paint Alexandria show will be featured "in a video that will be choreographed to ‘Our Town’s’ music."