The Cirque came to the Symphony this weekend, drawing sell-out crowds. The program that lasted just over an hour was presented by the Kansas City Symphony as the latest installment in its Family Series concerts.
Audience members of all ages were in for a memorable treat Saturday as six of the world's finest cirque artists joined Symphony members on the stage of the Lyric Theatre to juggle, contort and fly above the stage in a ballet of motion to the music of favorite orchestral hits.
The show opened with the orchestra alone in an ebullient reading of Dvorak's Carnival Overture, under the skillful baton of Steven Jarvi, associate conductor. Bravo! to Kenneth Lawrence, who shaped the four-note English horn ostinato in the Andante section with engaging musical variety. With the final festive tones of the overture sounded, the stage was set for the feats of athleticism and beauty that followed.
The program was presented Saturday, January 30 at 2 p.m. at the Lyric Theatre and Sunday, January 31 at 2 p.m. at Yardley Hall on the Johnson County Community College campus.
First up, to the sound of the "Danse Boheme" from Carmen, was ring juggler Vladimir Tsarkov, who held the audience rapt with his skillful manipulation of rings — five and six at a time — in perfect synch to the music. Tsarkov was seen onstage throughout the program in other roles as well. As mime artist and magician, he and his wife, Elena Tsarkova, managed to coax Maestro Jarvi to leave the orchestra to play on its own while Jarvi disappeared with the rope-bound Elena behind a velvet curtain, to emerge again with Elena wearing Jarvi's jacket under her ropes.
Alexander Streltsov delivered an impressive act of strength and balance by spinning a large metal cube about, above and below to the music of "Les Toreadors" from Bizet's Carmen.
Elena Tsarkova stole this reviewer's admiration with her stunning contortionist act as the Lady in White, performed upon two bar stools. Cutting an impossibly perfect human figure with her wasp waist and scintillating grace of movement to the music of Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers," she slithered into postures that one could only imagine being drawn, not enacted. Program notes did not mention that she is the mother of three children — one would not have believed it possible.
The orchestra performed solo again mid-program, delivering Glinka's "Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla" with exhilaratingly tight string ensemble. It was followed by the sultry strains of Saint-Saens' "Bacchanale" from Samson and Delilah. Principal oboist Mingjia Liu pulled out the snake charmer stops for his sinuous solo, enacted in Fantasia-like choreography by aerial hoopist, Aloysia Gavre-Wareham, who writhed 20 feet above the stage, swinging upside down held at times by only one foot or one hand.
Alexander Streltsov cut a striking figure in white pants and bare torso to contrast dramatically against the long red silk tapers that bore him high above the orchestra onstage in a suspenseful aerialist act. Performed to the thrilling score of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" (minus Brunnhilde's glorious soprano tones) he brought down the house.
But of all the feats of remarkable strength and graceful form these gold medal-winning artists delivered, the finale performed to Tchaikovsky's "Marche Slave" by the duo of strongmen, Vitaliy Pridhodko as bottom strongman, and Alexei Anikine, top strongman, brought the wildest applause of the show. They were astonishing to behold.
The orchestra reprised Bizet's "Les Toreadors" as the Cirque artists took their bows, bringing the house to a standing ovation.