“For Hamlet,” said conductor Gustavo Dudamel, “you have to feel DEEP CRAZY.”
Dudamel was talking about the fantasy overture, the last of three written by Tchaikovsky--all inspired by Shakespearean plays. But "deep crazy" might have just as easily been used to describe the concept of programming all three works on a single event...played without intermission.
Before any music was sounded we heard Matthew Rhys recite two welded monologues as Hamlet. Rhys set a breathtaking energy in motion that led us naturally into sound as the enigmatic fantasy overture began.
"The silence is so important," said Dudamel in preconcert footage, "it is always the feeling of...WHY?"
The orchestra focused on these silences, and each the 8th rests in the strange figure that falls away after the very first presentation of the opening fate motive seemed carefully sculpted. As the performance unfolded it became clear that Dudamel was shaping the score like a work by Mahler; shaping lines and twists to edge the philosophical.
Ok, now for more deep crazy: follow the Hamlet overture in F minor with another overture by Tchaikovsky (also in F minor): The Symphonic Fantasia on the Tempest. As if by the magic that powers the tempest this worked also.
There was no applause that separated the works, and with only a brief narration we were set upon the waters that open Tchaikovsky's Tempest. It worked because it felt like a developmental continuation of Hamlet.
In this early work, Dudamel found and voiced the non-Shakespearean influences that moved Tchaikovsky--a mixture of exact opposites combined in a single work--the style of Wagner and the style of Mendelssohn. The attitudes of both composers felt blended and almost reconciled in this elegant but dramatic performance.
Cheers to the section strings for the 21st century clarity in the rhythmic interplay of the opening texture. The precise frictions of this passage generated a platform to launch this second of the three overtures.
Orlando Bloom (as Romeo) and Anika Noni Rose (as Juliet) gave us a narrative blend that harmonized with the musical blend in the final work of the event: the famous Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture.
This production had a technical elegance in the camera angles that was lacking in the first transmission last January. The preconcert footage was informative and colorful. Only the post-concert questions came up short--we just wanted to decompress and, if anything, talk with the folks who had just performed. The questions were banal and distracting in this context.
But this was it. This event realized some of the massive potential in this new medium. I am already looking forward to the next transmission on June 5.