Robert Hill Creates a Sensual and Sensational CARMINA BURANA

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David Kiyak, from the 2013 production: Photo Credit: Michael Cairns drphillipscenter.org

Reviewed by: Michael J. Roberts

The merging of the performance arts was magnificently displayed at the new Walt Disney Theatre with the final event in their Grand Premiere festivities of the Dr. Phillips Center.  A remount of the Bach Festival of Winter Park and the Orlando Ballet‘s 2013 production of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana was, quite simply, breathtaking in every since of the word.  Mr. Orff’s 1935 work which many times gets categorized as opera, is certainly not.  Instead it is a meticulously crafted song cycle of 24 medieval poems that remarks on the nature, the perils love, lust, wealth and redemption.    As a stand alone oratorio, Carmina Burana always makes for a good listen.  To that end, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra‘s recent tour and recording under the baton of Riccardo Mutti is the new benchmark of Orff’s work.  It also a favorite of my friend, Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director of the fabled Joffrey Ballet, as we discussed here.

But there is something viscerally transcendent when dance is merged with the piece.    In the past few years, I have seen at least three different productions by various ballet companies (and one modern dance company) but none have come close to the ornate beauty and sexual energy of Orlando Ballet Artistic Director Robert Hill’s vision.  The reason for this is that Mr. Hill’s company of exquisite dancers also have an innate since of the truth they are conveying as actors to each of the sequences of Orff’s work.  Perfect examples of this can be seen in David Kiyak, whose “Omnia sol Temperat” had myself and those seating around me in tears.  Why? Because movement and story become one.  Same with Arcadian Broad’s electric “Were All The World Mine”.

This was also a vocally perfect production with Gabriel Premisser’s precise diction adding a new level of understanding the composer’s lyrics.  Soprano Julia Foster brought down the house and tenor James Hall, which miraculous vocal agility, certainly has another job waiting for him in the role of Mary Sunshine in the musical Chicago!

Artistic director and conductor of the Bach Festival Social of Winter Park, John V. Sinclair was in expert control of the entire evening via his baton.  Mr. Sinclair took some of the pieces a bit more uptempo then I have usually heard, but this was a welcome change as it created a more energetic piece as a whole.

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photo credit: Michael Cairnes facebook.com/bachfestivalsociety

This is the second time seeing a production at this magnificent center, the first being the Broadway and Beyond gala in which the the Walt Disney Center proved a perfect fit.   The utilitarian aspect of  detail is also well suited for this grand combined work as well, as the sound was crisp and clear.  However, there were some major sight line issues from the far left side where I was seated, and  times when at times only half of the dancers were visible.  This issue which made several patrons near me request other seats.   The Walt Disney Theatre is certainly not unique with this issue and is a problem easily solved by sectioning off those seats for intimate performances.

That is a minor quibble though.  Mr. Hill and his collaborators have created the benchmark of Mr. Orff’s work that other companies must now work to strive for.  For anyone that ever doubted that theatre is a living and breathing thing, then they only would need to see these magnificent dancers, orchestra and vocalists in their natural habitat….the stage.

Carmina Burana was presented on Saturday, November 22, 2014 at the Dr. Phillips Center For The Performing Arts, 45 S Magnolia Ave, Orlando,
(407) 839-0119.  For more information on upcoming events visit drphillipscenter.org, bachfestivalflorida.org and orlandoballet.org