Peter and the symphony

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Despite the cold weather over the weekend of Jan. 18, audience members flocked to Centre in the Square for a matinee performance of the opera Peter and the Wolf.

Members of the audience ranged from toddlers to grandparents as everybody came to experience a rendition of Prokofiev’s magnificent composition.

Conducted by Evan Mitchell, the symphony tells the story of a young boy named Peter who defies his grandfather’s request to stay out of a dangerous meadow. Peter’s act of disobedience allows him to interact with many animals, which are represented by specific instruments and melodies.

For example, the flute represents the bird, the grandfather is represented by the bassoon and Peter himself was represented by numerous string instruments.

The orchestra contained approximately 55 musicians from the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony.

Not only did this large group manage to play the entire show flawlessly with no audible mistakes, but they also became a part of the performance as they swayed with the music.

The story was narrated by Saskia, an articulate and vibrant little girl who captured the attention of the audience from the moment she appeared on stage.

As she recited the story, the instruments behind her whimsically hummed in a collaborative effort to bring the symphonic element of story-telling to life.

To engage his audience, and to liven up a well-known story, Mitchell put a twist on his own performance.

“You never know what is going to make [children] laugh. I go with my instincts about humour,” he explained.

This was demonstrated as Mitchell’s imaginative approach to conducting had him sporting patterned pink flannel pajamas and a pair of bunny slippers as he introduced himself.

Eventually, he removed the flannel to reveal his more formal black conductor’s attire. However, the audience persuaded him to keep the funky footwear.

Interestingly, this performance resonates with Mitchell on many levels. Before the performance began, he referred to the symphony as a masterpiece.

“[When] I was about ten years old, the very first school show that I ever saw was Peter and the Wolf. It was the first time I had seen a professional orchestra live.”

Not only does the conductor have ties to this specific composition, Mitchell is extremely contented to engage with a much younger audience.

“It’s an opportunity to show everybody that a lot of the unfair conceptions about the symphony are not true.”

“[If] I can cut away from the idea that [the symphony] is an elitist thing you can’t stand or something that is overly ritualistic, I will just throw on bunny slippers so people can’t argue that anymore.”

After conducting Peter and the Wolf, Evan Mitchell highlighted some events to come in the K-W region. Currently busy working on 14 separate programs, he was eager to promote his third family concert to be showcased in March 2014.

“It is a primer for young people [regarding] opera,” Mitchell said, adding there was a puppet involved in the performance.

“The puppet is learning about opera; therefore, the audience [will be] learning about opera. This is actually going to be a big deal. As far as I know, no other orchestra is doing anything like an operatic primer with orchestra singers for kids.”


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