You know Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” Or at least part of it.
The opening song, “O Fortuna,” has been used in dozens of films (from “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” to “Excalibur”), TV shows and advertisements, not to mention sampled and covered by the likes of Overkill, Busta Rhymes and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
But that’s all that many people know of the 1936 multimedia spectacle for which Orff (1895-1982) is best known.
This weekend you can hear it all — 25 songs celebrating spring, love and pleasures of the flesh — when the Grand Teton Music Festival features “Carmina Burana” and selections from Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville” for its 2019 fundraising gala. The Festival Orchestra, led by Maestro Donald Runnicles, will be augmented by the Utah Symphony Chorus and The Madeleine Choir School Chorus, both from Salt Lake City, as well as vocalists Meechot Marrero, Sunnyboy Dladla and Thomas Lehman for performances at 8 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Sunday at Walk Festival Hall in Teton Village.
Andrew Palmer Todd, president and CEO of the 58-year-old summer festival, called “Carmina Burana” ideal to spotlight the organization’s most reliable star, its orchestra. Since 1962 musicians from across the continent have come to the Tetons for up to eight weeks of convivial but exacting music-making with colleagues who have over years and decades become close friends. The combination of our sublime environment, the spirit of friendship and the stature of the participants have made the Grand Teton Music Festival one of the top summer festivals in the U.S. and the world, according to The New York Times and The Telegraph of London.
“It’s important for us to raise up this group that makes this festival possible,” Todd said of the rational for this year’s gala. “We wanted to do that by putting them front and center with a blockbuster repertoire piece.”
“Carmina Burana” certainly fits the “blockbuster” description. Taken from a much larger collection of often bawdy and satirical songs that date as far back as the 11th century, Orff selected two dozen to set to music, brilliantly combining simple melodies and harmonies of the medieval era with more modern driving rhythms and rapidly changing meters. The festival is set to execute all of that with an enormous orchestra, replete with two pianos, an expanded wind and brass section and a full battery of percussion.
Also on the program are selections from the Rossini favorite “The Barber of Seville” (1816), not just the overture, which is often presented in orchestral concerts, but also arias and duets that will include some staging and acting. Aside from rounding out a rousing gala event, “Barber” pulls on Runnicles’ reputation as an expert interpreter of opera and sets the festival on a course to bring more opera to the Tetons.
In the coming years, Todd hinted, performances like “Barber of Seville” could develop into more fleshed-out productions. While Walk Festival Hall might not be able to accommodate an orchestra, chorus and full-blown sets and theatrical lighting, Todd said “you can let your imagination run rampant” about the possibilities. ￼