The Yale Symphony Orchestra will serenade audiences with pieces from one of history’s most iconic love stories this Saturday.
In its first-ever Valentine’s Day-themed concert, the YSO will perform four versions of the Shakespearean tale of “Romeo and Juliet,” each one written by a different composer. The concert’s program selections span over a hundred years — from 19th century France to 20th century New York — with works by Hector Berlioz, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev and Leonard Bernstein. YSO conductor Toshiyuki Shimada said the date of the concert had fallen on Valentine’s Day by chance, noting that he decided to give the concert a love-related theme after realizing that the two dates coincided.
“What I thought would be wonderful to represent is the feeling of love with music,” Shimada said.
The concert will open with Berlioz’s “Love Scene” from “Roméo et Juliette.” Although Berlioz’s complete work runs over an hour, Shimada said, the orchestra will perform only the famous balcony scene in which Romeo and Juliet first meet.
YSO members interviewed noted that while the original Shakespearean tale ends tragically, they are not performing any of the scenes involving death. The group is instead focusing on the parts of the works that serve as the “most romantic parts of the play,” said principal cellist Sarah Swong ‘15.
Following the Berlioz work, the YSO will perform Tchaikovsky’s musical rendition of the play, which was the first piece to come to mind when Shimada envisioned the concert’s romantic theme. YSO flutist Eve Roth ‘16 said the piece stands out in capturing the “angst” element of the storyline by depicting the developing feud between the lovers’ families. The YSO will then finish the first half of the show with a performance of Act I, Scene II of Prokofiev’s ballet version of the play, which centers on Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting at the ball.
The second half of the concert will feature the “Symphonic Dances” from “West Side Story,” a suite of orchestral music prepared from the musical. Shimada noted that he found the piece not only appropriate for the occasion, but also expected both audience and orchestra members to find it enjoyable. Swong echoed this sentiment, adding that although the audience may find the piece’s melodies recognizable and catchy, there will be several “little surprises” in the performance that an orchestra-going audience may not normally expect. YSO president Field Rogers ’15 said many orchestra members had voiced interest in performing music from “West Side Story” last year as well.
Roth said the “Symphonic Dances” also challenges the orchestra with a style that is both jazzier and more rhythmic than what most of the string players are familiar with.
Orchestra members noted that the common theme of “love at first sight” was evident across all four of the featured pieces. Swong added that she thinks the concert provides an opportunity to observe the connection between literature and music, as well as their influences on each other.
Shimada said the concert may be an idewal setting for a date with a loved one.
“It’s definitely possible that in the middle of the balcony scene, you will look down from the second balcony and see someone looking up at you and realize that you have actually found love, just like the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene,” Roth said.