Norwalk Symphony presents lavish multilevel production of "Peer Gynt" at Fairfield University's Quick Center for the Arts May 4


In a rare staging of Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt," the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra (NSO) under the musical direction of the innovative Diane Wittry, has assembled more than the fine musicians for which they are known for their appearance at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Friday, May 4 at 8 p.m. Joining them for the fully collaborative orchestral/musical theater fusion of Grieg's evocative music and Henrik Ibsen's fantasy masterpiece will be professional actors Kathryn Marchand of Stratford and Ezra Barnes, soprano Marjorie McGovern of Stamford, The Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut and, expressing the mood of both works in concert with movement, will be dancers from the New Canaan Dance Academy. Maestra Wittry leads a pre-concert Art to Heart discussion from 7-7:30 p.m.

On the centennial of Grieg's death, the NSO pays tribute to two great Norwegian artists by reuniting Grieg's well-loved music with Ibsen's seldom-performed play in this adventurous production that sparked Maestra Wittry to promise, "You'll never hear 'Peer Gynt' the same way again."

Barnes, founding artistic director of Rowayton's Shakespeare on the Sound, worked with Maestra Wittry to pare down a new translation of the full five-hour play to a script that, through narration and astutely-chosen scenes, maintains the integrity of the play's theatricality and builds the dramatic action while integrating the music, thus creating this rich production. Maestra Wittry says of her work with Barnes, "Combining the two art forms has created interesting challenges, but also interesting ways of making the piece more effective and emotionally impactful."

Barnes plays many of the male roles, including Peer, and Marchand, who has a long list of theatrical and film credits, portrays a variety of female characters.

Soprano soloist McGovern, who is also Cantor at St. Mary Church in Greenwich, sings, among other familiar pieces, "Song of Solveig" and speaks the lines of Solveig, one of the play's central characters.

The Mendelssohn Choir, under Carole Ann Maxwell's vibrant direction, performs Grieg's splendid choral compositions and, adding the final artistic complement with the evening's three major dances, is the New Canaan Dance Academy's Performance Company, members of which will perform original choreography.

Written in 1867, the play was based on Norwegian folktales. It is considered akin to the medieval morality play, "Everyman," where the main character must atone for his life when unexpectedly faced with death. It focuses on the problems of choice and identity, with much of the dialogue revolving around riddles and Man's purpose.

Edvard Grieg's music for "Peer Gynt" has enjoyed a success all its own and many of the selections have become recognizable to people all over the world. In the NSO's unique production, sections of music not usually heard are presented along with much of the familiar music. The addition of the theatrical context combined with dance, serves to make the music even more powerful and meaningful.

The NSO considers the achievement of mounting a production of such magnitude, a very special event. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the people in Eastern Connecticut to hear the music and to see portions of the play "Peer Gynt" in our unique version," Maestra Wittry said recently. Tickets are $35, $30 and can be purchased online at www.quickcenter.com. If you prefer, please call the Box Office at (203) 254-4010 or the toll free number 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, please visit the website, www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 19, 2007

Vol. 39, No. 206