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Jean Oelrich
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Ballet for kids! Pacific Symphony’s enchanting fairy tale, Stravinsky’s “The Firebird,” comes vividly to life as the story is told through music, dance and narration

Orange County, Calif. — March 28, 2016

FirebirdPacific Symphony’s final Family Musical Mornings concert of the season, “The Firebird, Ballet for Kids!” features beautiful, talented dancers in colorful costumes, who tell the charming story of the famous Russian fairy tale set to music by Igor Stravinsky. Led by Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia, the orchestra is joined by members of the Orange County Ballet Theater, and one of their young star dancers, Hillary Estreicher, who acts as narrator and guides the audience through the story. The concert, inspired by the original ballet and adapted by Bree Burgess Rosen, is 45 minutes in length and designed especially for kids 5-11, who are sure to be mesmerized by the journey of young Prince Ivan and a magical, glowing bird! Venturing into an enchanted garden where an evil magician (Kashchei) has cast a spell over the land, Ivan falls in love with a beautiful princess who is being held captive. Everyone is sure to cheer when the mysterious Firebird comes to the aid of Ivan as he tries to defeat the evil magician!

“The Firebird, Ballet for Kids!” takes place on Saturday, April 30, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Children and their parents are invited to join in the fun at the interactive Musical Carnival, where they can test drive a musical instrument, meet the performers and enjoy musical arts and crafts activities themed to the morning’s concert. Activities begin at 9 a.m. for 10 a.m. concertgoers and 12:15 p.m. for 11:30 a.m. concertgoers. Concert tickets are $15-$40; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

“Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird’ is colorful, exotic and majestic,” says Maestro Kalia. “The fusion of dance and music creates both a visual and listening experience in one. The wonderful thing about Stravinsky’s score is that it is adapted so well for dancers in terms of their choreography. Often times, ‘The Firebird’ is only presented as a concert piece, and we forget that it was originally written as a ballet. The dancers from the Orange County Ballet Theater are absolutely fantastic, and they will add another dimension to this wonderful piece of music.”  

This concert is for children who love fairy tales! “The Firebird,” one of the most loved Russian stories, was set to music by the composer Stravinsky. Told through music and dance, it has become one of the most famous ballets of all time. The music is exciting, beautiful and at times a little scary—just like the story itself. Children are able to follow what is happening on stage by watching the dancers’ movements and listening to the music. In this way, the orchestra acts as the storyteller throughout the performance.

Children should listen for several woodwind instruments in the orchestra that play main characters: the flute, which represents the magical Firebird, and the oboe, which represents the Prince. The low-brass theme heard at the opening represents the malevolent Kashchei. Throughout the performance, the audience hears lovely lyrical music mixed with highly rhythmic and energetic moments.

“The orchestration is absolutely masterful in the way it depicts the different characters of the story,” says Kalia. “You can hear the fluttering wings of the Firebird in the woodwind writing and the wicked nature of Kashchei in the ominous brass chords. We will highlight the different characters of the story by having musicians from Pacific Symphony play their specific musical themes. Additionally, we have the visual element of the ballet dancers dressed as the characters from the story.”

Much of the ballet’s charm is wrapped around the adventures of the handsome and heroic Prince Ivan and his search for the most beautiful bird in the world, the Firebird. Prince Ivan finds the Firebird in a tree with golden apples, and is just about to catch her when she grants him one of her magical feathers in exchange for her freedom. Along Prince Ivan’s journey, he meets and falls in love with a beautiful princess named Tsarevna. Poor Tsarevna is the prisoner of the monster, Kashchei, who can turn people into stone, and Prince Ivan must rescue the beautiful princess! Will true love conquer all?

“At one point, enchanted princesses appear and dance around Prince Ivan,” describes Kalia. “Because they are under Kashchei’s magic spell, the princesses must return to his castle at sunrise. Ivan follows them and is captured by Kashchei’s sinister guardians. He is about to be turned to stone when he remembers the Firebird’s magic feather and waves it in the air. The Firebird returns and leads Kashchei and his monsters in a wild dance—the ‘Infernal Dance.’ The dance is so exhausting that Kashchei and his followers fall fast asleep. The Firebird then tells Ivan that Kashchei’s soul is in a huge egg…” What happens next is for the audience to find out!

“The Firebird” ballet premiered in Paris in June 1910, and was written for a famous ballet company, or dance group, called Les Ballets Russes, founded by Sergei Diaghilev. The work was an instant success with both audience and critics. The ballet has historic significance not only as Stravinsky’s breakthrough piece, but also as the beginning of the collaboration between Diaghilev and Stravinsky that would also produce “Petrushka,” “The Rite of Spring,” “Pulcinella” and other famous works. Les Ballets Russes were not only known for creating exciting new ballets but also for collaborating with a wide variety of musicians and artists, such as Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

Pacific Symphony’s Family Musical Mornings series is presented by Farmers and Merchants Bank.

 

 

 

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