San Francisco, CA the USA
– As the war in Ukraine has our minds in turmoil and distress, the music and imagination of Ludwig Van Beethoven couldn’t have come at a better time. It was another jam-packed house at Davies Symphony on February 24, just two months into 2022, and we were eager to hear the tale of two clay statues created by the Titan Prometheus. The story tells how Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gifted it to humankind. Eventually, these male and female figures become human, performing their own unique dance. The audience rejoiced at the brilliantly illustrated projections of Hillary Leben as her comedic animated art took us into the world of the mighty and capricious Greek god era so effortlessly. Hillary’s work was highly colourful and dramatic yet had a childlike feel. The musical performances led by conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen came between each animated segment as orchestral strings filled the room, guiding our imaginations to incredible places. The audience chuckled in unison and delighted at each animated piece projected. Hillary is a master of her craft and knows how to play the crowd perfectly, blending humour into her work. You couldn’t hold in the laughter as you watched each of the character’s expressive faces while the narrator described them in comedic detail. From the gods to dancer-choreographer Salvatore Viganò, Beethoven’s collaborator, whose character was definitely the crowd favourite, all were enjoying each character brought to the screens. His only article of clothing was an entire vine of grapes dangling as he twirled in the air with incredible ballet poise and precision.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that actor Keith David was our narrator for the evening, as his one-of-a-kind voice was the perfect fit for this mythological tale. You may know him from such classic films as “The Thing,” “They Live,” “Platoon,” and “Something About Mary,” to name a few. Mr David was set up towards the back of the stage, elevated slightly about the musicians giving audiences a nice view. The theatrical and choreographed lights would rise and dim as he read each scene, making the mood more dynamic, and the familiarity of his voice added much comfort to each segment, especially for those that we’re fans of his work.
In total, we enjoyed seventy minutes of Ludwig van Beethoven’s timeless music, engaging and fun animations filled with so many memorable and comedic characters, an engaging conductor, and a brilliant actor’s voice. To top it off, our beloved San Francisco Symphony brings it all together with each musical beat. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect night as I danced and twirled out of the Davis Hall in joy and glee.
Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen
Narrator: Keith David
Animator: Hillary Leben
Photography by: Stephan Cohen
For more info on the SF Symphony, go to: www.sfsymphony.org