The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra is taking traditional concerts to the next level with this weekend’s performance of Merregnon: Land of Silence, a symphonic fairy tale.
The CSO holds the honor of being the first orchestra to present the English-language version of the piece at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater. The program will open with Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46.
Music by internationally renowned composer Yoko Shimomura and story by popular German children’s author Frauke Angel combine to create a concert experience that takes audiences on a magical journey using music, art and narration.
Laura Savia, vice president of performing and visual arts at Chautauqua Institution, called the score “incredible” and agreed with Rossen Milanov, the CSO’s music director and principal symphonic conductor, that it would be a good fit for Chautauqua.
“Maestro Milanov and I both found the score to be really sophisticated enough for our seasoned orchestra patrons, but also accessible enough for kids and family audiences,” she said.
The piece includes anime-style images that Savia called “stunning,” along with live storytelling.
Broadway and award-winning film actress Tina Benko, who will also appear with the Chautauqua Theater Company later this season, serves as the narrator.
“It is a piece that uses the entire symphony orchestra beautifully,” Savia said.
Shimomura created a melody for each of the story’s characters. The score showcases a diversity of sound, penned to complement the various orchestral sections as well as their soloists.
“The journey that the protagonist goes on feels like an adventure,” Savia said. “And the music, while certainly not video game music, is composed by someone who has built her reputation on scoring beloved video games.”
Shimomura is known for her work on multimillion-selling video games, including Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy XV. With fans around the world, she holds the honor of being the highest placed female composer ever in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, the world’s largest annual poll of classical music tastes.
“To me, when I listen to her score, there is an elegance to it. There is a power to it,” Savia said. “She is adept at utilizing every section, every instrument in the orchestra. But there’s also a sense of play. There’s also a sense of wit and whimsy.”