Interview: Gene Chang On Cirque De La Symphonie

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On 8 and 9 February, the Cirque de la Symphonie makes their return to the Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS (DFP), KLCC for another highly-anticipated concert. Following successful collaborations with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) in 2015 and 2018, this exhilarating concert performance will once again mesmerise audiences with their presentation of aerial flyers, acrobats, strongmen and jugglers.

Accompanying the performance on stage will be live orchestral music provided by the MPO. Combined this not only creates a highly-entertaining performance but also one of the most unique concert experiences ever to be held in the DFP.

This year, the concert will be led by Korean-American conductor Gene Chang, who has worked with many renowned orchestras around the world such as the Cincinnati Pops, Pittsburgh Symphony, and Seoul Philharmonics. The musical performances will be devoted almost entirely to music from film scores such as James Horner’s Theme from Avatar, John William’s Superman theme, Henry Mancini’s Moon River and Hans Zimmer’s Music from Gladiator.

Ahead of this weekend’s concert, we spoke to Chang to find out more aboutCirque De La Symphonie’s return and what audiences can expect during this unique concert experience.

Q: This marks the third time Cirque de la Symphonie is making its return to Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS. How does it feel to arrange a unique concert like this?
A: This concert is so much fun to put together, primarily because you just know it has all the ingredients to be a fantastic show that audiences will love.  It features a tremendous group – Cirque de la Symphonie troupe with their incredible acts – along with the amazing Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) performing some of the most beloved music and movie themes ever written.  It is no surprise that this is the third time Cirque de la Symphonie is returning – it is wonderful and fun to perform for the audience.

What new elements will be put in play for this year’s performance of Cirque de la Symphonie?
This year’s concerts will feature a ‘live’ violin aerialist, performing in sync with the MPO. It is a spectacle not to be missed!

In terms of music selection, what are the considerations that go towards pairing the score with the performance?
There are really just two: music that captures and enhances the character or emotions, and drama of the act, which is also great music that the audience will recognize and instantly respond to.  But easier said than done!  What makes this show great is that the music by itself would have made a wonderful pops concert, while Cirque de la Symphonie acts are exciting regardless of the music; but putting these two elements together really makes this such a special show.

As the music accompanies the performance, how hard is it for the orchestra to maintain its tempo and timing in accordance with what the performers of Cirque de la Symphonie are doing on stage?
Surprisingly it is not!  Much of the credit for that goes to the members of the Cirque.  They are such professionals with complete mastery of their craft – which also allows them to be very flexible, aware and able to stay connected to the orchestra at all times.  Also, the MPO is an amazing orchestra with lightning fast reflexes; at any moment when the orchestra does need to adapt or make an adjustment, they can do so at the drop of a hat.  This is what makes ‘live’ performance so much fun!

There are many elements to the performance, ranging from aerialists to strongmen, which part of it is your personal favourite or the part you are most looking forward to?
The first full rehearsal – where everything comes together and the orchestra, together with the Cirque troupe are finally on stage for the first time – is always such a magical moment.  You can really sense a collective feeling of thrill and awe from everybody on stage as they see the show come to life, even as they are creating it themselves.  It is not every day that you have performers flying through the air – directly above the musicians of the orchestra!  From that moment to the opening of the show, it is such a gratifying feeling having known how much audiences are going to love these concerts and then seeing that joy and excitement come to fruition. 

Catch Cirque de la Symphonie on Saturday, 8 February 2020 at 8.30 pm and Sunday, 9 February 2020 at 3.00 pm at Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS (DFP), KLCC. For tickets log on to mpo.com.my

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