Cirque de la Symphonie’s team of aerial flyers, acrobats, strongmen and jugglers pushes the thrill to another level that leaves the heart pounding in awe and amazement!
by AZALEA AZUAR/ pic credit: DFP
AN ARRAY of emotions — anxiety, fascination, surprise, delight and wonderment — all in one go.
That’s the kind of excitement that was induced by the recent performance of Cirque de la Symphonie at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP), KLCC.
The performance, which also marked the troupe’s third show with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) after a couple of collaborations in 2015 and 2018, was a rousing success.
While Cirque de la Symphonie’s earlier stints with the MPO were sold out, the same success was replicated during the troupe’s two-day concert on Feb 8 and Feb 9 at the DFP.
Was Cirque de la Symphonie really worth the hype? Yes it was!
While the MPO provided the most dreamy of music that stirred the emotions, Cirque de la Symphonie’s team of aerial flyers, acrobats, strongmen and jugglers pushed the thrill to another level that left the heart pounding in awe and amazement.
Needless to say, MPO and Cirque de la Symphonie literally took the audience out of this world and to a whimsical place filled with wonderment and pleasant surprises.
Leading the MPO was Korean-American conductor Gene Chang. The Julliard School and Berkeley alumnus led the orchestra to perform music devoted mostly to iconic film scores, as well as classical masterpieces with gusto.
In the beginning of the show, Chang explained how it was going to be like and he urged the audience to let it out. “Don’t hold in your feelings, it’s not healthy,” he joked.
Of course, there were moments when you wanted to swear, not because the performance was terrible, but because you just could not believe what was unfolding on stage in front of your eyes.
Yes, restraint was in place necessarily for the sake of some of the younger members of the audience.
Introducing the Aerial Violinist
Aerial violinist Janice Martin is the newest addition to Cirque de la Symphonie.
Just when you thought that being suspended in the air doing splits was already amazing, jaws just dropped when she took out her violin!
Martin definitely stunned the audience with her next-level multitasking skills.
She played Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons: Winter” while being suspended in mid-air upside down (and yes, plus the split).
Dressed in a dazzling costume and enchanting the audience in mid-air with her violin, Martin definitely looked like a fairy.
It was awesome to witness a fearless and talented musician who would go that far to entertain.
There was also a hint of anxiety among the crowd as Martin executed her task. Now, what if she made a mistake and fell (which of course did not happen)?
At the end of her routine, Martin did “fall” (on purpose) and that shocked the audience.
One would have to add that her fall was graceful and she managed to remain suspended in silk. One could only imagine the pain in her thighs when Martin performed the split while playing the violin!
The aerial violinist also performed “Csárdás” where she was suspended with a hoop.
Martin was smooth and graceful as the hoop swung in mid-air.
Cirque de la Symphonie could be just the tip of the iceberg for Martin’s abilities as she is also an opera singer and classical pianist. You may say that she has certainly reached greater heights!
An Interactive Comic Relief
Juggler and mime Vladimir Tsarkov served as the comic relief for Cirque de la Symphonie.
He was dressed in a typical red mime garment throughout the concert. Although he tried to change them a few times during the quick-change performance with Elena Tsarkova in “Chicago Medley”, he was never successful!
There was a strong circus feel (without the animals) that night as Tsarkov demonstrated his juggling skills.
In “The Witches of Eastwick: Devil’s Dance” segment, he amazed the audience by juggling the hoops.
Every hoop that was thrown and caught was well-synchronised with music that was provided by the orchestra.
It’s fascinating how Tsarkov was able to do all this almost flawlessly.
Apparently, Tsarkov is more than just a juggling mime in Cirque de la Symphonie.
In fact, his mime act was taken to a whole new level as he interacted with the environment around him.
In “Por Una Cabenza”, Tsarkov asked Chang to be his “assistant”. In order to demonstrate the swift change of clothes performance, Tsarkov requested Chang to tie him up.
It was hilarious to see Tsarkova end up in Chang’s conductor tailcoat (he was rather relieved that it was “not the pants”, instead).
In the famous “Tsar Saltan: Flight of the Bumblebee”, Tsarkov decided to give the audience a chance to be part of the show, as he threw juggling clubs at the audience.
The mime also enjoyed teasing them by doing last-minute jump scares, which were actually more hilarious, rather than scary.
The Force is with John Williams
Of all the composers in the list of acts, John Williams’ works made up the most of it because he had scored in more than a hundred films.
The 88-year-old composer is mostly known for his works in “Schindler’s List”, the first three Harry Potter films, “Jurassic Park” and “Indiana Jones”.
Of all these films that Williams had worked on, his score for “Star Wars” is definitely the most recognisable and iconic.
Throughout his career, Williams received 52 Oscar nominations, of which he won five of them.
Sadly, his final score was “Star Wars Episode XI: The Rise of Skywalker”, his final nomination before his retirement.
Although he didn’t win an Oscar in the 92nd Academy Awards, Williams has won the hearts of fans throughout his entire career.
His scores are known to bring listeners into the movie itself. Most of his compositions also seem to have that strong action-adventure vibe, which certainly suits the performances in Cirque de la Symphonie.
For the “Adventures of Indiana Jones: A Whirl Through Academe” segment, it was Vitalii Buza’s turn as he performed with a Cyr wheel.
The MPO performed Williams’ score in a fast pace, but Buza somehow managed to balance the wheel with grace.
When concert-goers were told that the “Superman” theme will be in the show, they were expecting some aerial performances. And boy, did Cirque de la Symphonie live up to their expectations!
The Superman act was indeed the highlight of the show.
Was it a bird? Was it a plane! Well, it was not really Superman, but Benjamin Lerman impressed the audience all the same with his heroic performance.
He might not have a cape on, but Lerman knew what to do with the silk pieces that kept him off the ground. Come to think of it, the silk did look like a cape as Lerman glided and swung in mid-air.
He was that good, that no Kryptonite or even the likes of Superman villains, including Lex Luthor, Brainiac or Darkseid could stop him.
Using the forbidden love theme in “Across the Stars” from“Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” as the background music, the segment that featured Buza and Elena Zhirnova was yet another breathtaking item, as the two performed their aerial romantic ballet with twice the pride.
Donned in white costume, the two aerial dancers delivered such a beautiful and captivating performance wrapped (hanging?) in brilliant red silk.
Although Williams’ score was meant to foreshadow a tragedy, the act ended with another happy landing.
The Magic of the MPO
The performers might have taken much of the limelight that night, but it was actually the MPO which managed to anchor the whole performance together via the precise yet moving rendition of the spectacular film scores.
With Chang holding the baton, the MPO’s interpretation of “Moon River” exuded that distinct romantic vibe, while offering a hint of the late Audrey Hepburn’s classiness.
Since a new James Bond film “No Time to Die” will be out this year, the MPO tuned their instruments to deliver “Diamonds are Forever”. That indeed raised the hype (maybe it’s time to pack our gadgets and wear a tuxedo!).
When the MPO performed the “Theme from Avatar”, you immediately felt that you were in Pandora.
What stood out was the arrangement of the drums and percussion which gave the segment a strong tribal feel.
The lighting was specially designed and choreographed to complement the performance — the blue light signified the Na’vi people, while the green light represented the trees, which were among the key scenes in “Avatar”.
At the end of the concert, the MPO and Cirque de La Symphonie were given a standing ovation. The people have indeed spoken!