Asper the requirements, I watched the hour-long “Beyond thescore-Hector Berlioz Symphonie fantastique.” The introduction ofthe video provided by the website gave me a hint of what to expectfrom watching. Given that I have watched many other orchestraperformance concerts, this was a whole new experience to me. Irealized that the performance had a song in French accompanied byEnglish subtitles. Reading the subtitles as the narration went on wasalso a new experience for me. For most performances, my engagementwith a performance is usually watching the orchestra members and theconductors and listening to specific notes. In this case I was alsoreading subtitles, scrutinizing background images projected on a wallbehind the narrator besides the usual.
Whatwas exciting about the whole performance was the use of actors whichgave life to the whole performance. One of actors who plays HectorBerlioz takes the ownership of the performance and even seeks toguide the conductor on what to do and expect pertaining to certainnotes. I find this very exhilarating and fresh. It notably engagesthe audience better in term of visuals voice and musical sounds.Berlioz employs satire in his narrations and manages to mimic accentsand other actors in his narration. The audience clearly enjoys thisengagement into the narration through laughter and murmurs ofapproval. I think this is a new way of not only indulging audiencesbut also attracting new and younger audiences especially thoseunaccustomed to orchestra performance concerts.
Iwas impressed by the manner in which the performance, especiallythrough the narration, integrates literature, music and other arts.Berlioz makes note that harps are uncommon in orchestra performanceconcerts and even makes the point of introducing them. He alsomentions bagpipes common in Scotland traditional music. The narratoralso tells the stories of Romeo and Juliet among others. This notonly captures and introduces subjects that the audience is familiarwith but also celebrates achievements in the field of literature byother accomplished artists. I believe this is an avenue that shouldbe explored whereby orchestra performances, literature and otherperformance arts are used in promoting one another to boost agradually decreasing audience in the face of modern technology.
Onthe subject matter of the narration, there are various issues raised.One of them is the notion of respecting the choice of young children.Berlioz talks of how his parents would not understand his choice of acareer in music instead of taking a more serious one. The performanceuses the Berlioz’s story to emphasize on the growing recognition ofmusic as a professional career. The orchestra validates this claimthrough an exemplary performance. The same message is put acrosspertaining to acting and other performance arts by the performanceitself.
Theperformance also tells a personal story of Hector Berlioz. Thecomposition clearly notes that the author was obsessed with HarrietSmithson after watching her perform in Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”as Ophelia. He went to great lengths to win her over but failed.Apparently, he wrote this particular symphony as a way of forgettingthe woman he loved after learning that she was in love with anotherman. I believe this captures an important issue that should beexplored by modern composers. There is need to own up art pieces andtell our stories through performances. This can readily enable theaudience to relate better with orchestra performance concerts. Suchpersonal stories are not only more entertaining but borrow a leaffrom modern pieces of art pieces where films and literature works areincreasingly based or inspired by real life stories. Therefore, I amconvinced that “Beyond the Score – Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique”provides a new direction that orchestra performances can take to winmore audiences, stay relevant and be more entertaining.