MOBILE, Alabama — With music and dancers, the Mobile Symphony Orchestra did its best to offer something for everyone at its season opener, "Stars of the Joffrey Ballet," on Saturday night at the Saenger Theatre.
The show started a little late, possibly to accommodate the boisterous, family-friendly crowd. It's always nice to see plenty of children joining their parents for a big night out, even if several of the little ones couldn't help but fade after intermission.
Conductor Scott Speck and the symphony opened the concert with selections from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," which he playfully introduced as "the greatest hits of classical ballet," but which, surprisingly, did not feature dancers. The first pair took the stage for the second selection, choreographer Edwaard Liang's "Age of Innocence" with music by Philip Glass, which featured kinetic, modern choreography. The dancers, in simple white costumes, showed strength and panache.
The third piece, choreographer Val Caniparolis Aria, was set to music of Handel and also featured soprano Megan King Anderson, always a huge audience favorite. But it was choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's "After the Rain," with music by Arvo Part, that was the highlight of the first half of the evening. The two dancers, accompanied only by the pianist and featuring concertmaster Jenny Gregoire's haunting violin solo, put on a dazzling, sensual display, and the audience rewarded them with prolonged applause.
Another equally memorable moment came after intermission, with the beautiful and tragic "Final Duet" from Elliot Goldenthal's "Othello," choreographed by Lar Lubovitch. The dancers put on an impressive display of raw power and grace, which meshed very well with the music. The climax was a moment of shocking brutality.
The final number was a selection from Richard Rogers' music from "Victory at Sea." It was nice to end the show with this upbeat, familiar music, accompanied by an exuberant dance number.
With this season opener, MSO was clearly trying to reach out to a wider audience -- those of us who prefer the visual and those of us who are traditional music lovers. It was a bold choice, and it worked well.
The concert will be repeated today at 2:30 p.m. at the Saenger. For tickets and information, call 251-432-2010 or go to www.mobilesymphony.org.
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