Over the Weekend...Carmina Burana @ Boettcher Concert Hall

Categories: Last Night

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Carmina Burana
Sunday May 18, 2008
Boettcher Concert Hall
Better than:
Sitting in a room full of wannabe thugs.

Jay Z may be well known by millions worldwide, and Carl Orff may just sound like the name of the German exchange student who went to your college, but they are more similar than you might think. Although Orff’s one popular work Carmina Burana is a success in the world of classical music, he certainly hasn’t ever garnered as much press as HOVA (or even as much as many of his classical counterparts). The sound may be different but the subject matter is strikingly similar – poppin’ bottles and getting your bone on.

Orff was basically a no name in Hitler’s Germany (even though Der Fuhrer was a fan) when Burana became famous the world over, and it elevated him to a level where he felt so much embarrassment over his work prior to it that he actually destroyed most of it and started his career anew. The text Orff based the music off of was one he had stumbled across that was recovered from a German Benedictine monastery – which is peculiar since its topics range from gambling to drinking and sex. With the help of a poet he turned twenty four of the poems into a monologue of sorts to be sung (his initial intention was to be sung and acted) along with his score. This didn’t quite happen. His music has primarily stood alone, contrary to his original desire, and has stood the test of time as a strictly orchestral piece.

Conductor Duain Wolfe of the Colorado Symphony Chorus took the stage without much fanfare in a half full concert hall, which is one of the most acoustically ingenious designed venues I’ve ever seen, complete with true stadium seating -- no more backs of heads in your face! The crowd (and players) were a healthy mix of pre-pubescents and senior citizens, with a modest sprinkling of in-betweens, which makes sense – the music and atmosphere take a little maturity to properly appreciate, and the score calls for a children’s chorus.

Orff’s ass kicking intro is more badass (and recognizable) than most Jay-Z songs (see Lord of the Rings and The Devil’s Advocate for just a few reference points of where you’ve already heard it), and although the rest may not sound all that familiar, it is just as well written and just as enjoyable to listen to. Baritone Robert Orth was the first soloist out and filled the role of older Opera man well, followed by tenor Christopher Pfund -- who although he certainly added Orff’s desired theatricality -- ambling on stage after feigning confusion and concern for his oft-celebrated solo “The Roasted Swan Sing” – was a little too much Robin Williams and not enough guy who I could respect. He was trying too hard to entertain at every turn when he already possessed a voice that could captivate any audience without his goofy shenanigans.

Orth, on the other hand, utilized more understated humor, catching more of what seemed like the intended spirit of the piece. Although it doesn’t translate well enough to be a current drinking song at the bar, “I am the abbot” comes across mighty nicely as one when Orth hiccups his way through it. Just to even it all out content wise, the vocalist followed it up with the stunning (yet lyrically awkward) “The Court of Love” with the children’s chorus and renowned soprano Joanna Mongiardo.

The immodesty of Orth voice and actions fit perfectly with the shy and subtle sexuality of Mongiardo’s playful behavior and absolutely breathtaking voice. Together, the pair made the beautiful orchestral arrangement come to life. Mongiardo and the children’s chorus stole the show, though, in “Cupid flies everywhere” (and pretty much everywhere else they appeared), and it was clear from that point on that everyone was pining for more from the both of them.

Orff ended in the same manner musically as he began, and so did the CSO – by nailing it and showing that it’s possible to sing about sex and other debauchery without putting on a half ass show or skimping on the talent.

-- Andrew Fersch

Critics notebook:

Personal bias: You shouldn’t be allowed in a theatre with leather pants unless you are Jim Morrison -- and Jim Morrison is dead.
Random detail: It’s impossible to see this production and not fall in love with Joanna Mongiardo
By the way: Insane Clown Posse sold out and the CSO was only half full – do you really wanna live in that type of world? I hope not.


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