Carmina Burana: A Discussion with Steve Brosvik, COO of the Nashville Symphony

Stever Brosvik, COO, Nashville Symphony

Last week, we had the opportunity to speak with Steve Brosvik, the COO of the Nashville Symphony, about the upcoming performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Not only does this concert feature both the Nashville Symphony and the Nashville Symphony Chorus, but it also shines a spotlight on the Nashville Ballet, Blair Children’s Chorus, and a handful of talented soloists. It was wonderful and quite interesting to hear what it was like to coordinate this large, spectacular performance from his perspective.

[MCR]: What prompted the decision to involve the Nashville Ballet and Blair Children’s chorus?

[Brosvik]: Carmina Burana is a piece which requires adult and children’s choruses.  We have worked with the Blair Children’s chorus for several other works and it made sense to keep that relationship in place for this production of Carmina Burana.  We have a long-standing relationship with the Nashville Ballet, primarily focused on the Nashville Symphony playing in the pit for many of the Ballet’s productions each season.  A few Ballet companies have their own orchestras and many companies use pre-recorded music. The Nashville Ballet is one of the companies that works with the primary Symphony in its community and we believe it to be a deep, musically fulfilling, and creative partnership.  We have explored the relationship in a couple of different ways and this project is the next step in that evolution. We hope that the audience members are as excited about the final product as we are and we hope that this is only one of many artistic partnerships we can foster together and throughout Nashville.

What inspired the decision for a choreographed version of Carmina rather than the traditional staging?

The Symphony has performed the work 11 times since 1957 including three performances runs with the Nashville Ballet at TPAC.  This work is an audience favorite and was originally written with the intention that it would be danced. The performance at the Schermerhorn in March of 2016 including Appalachian Spring, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet were the first step in seeing how we could stretch the Schermerhorn with the combination of orchestra and dance.  Those performances opened a window of creativity for us that we are exploring further with this new production.

Were there any challenges when planning the concert/coordinating with other ensembles? How were the challenges overcome?  

This production is a feast for the senses and coordinating all of the elements to form a richly cohesive experience instead of sensory overload had to remain a continued focus.  Collecting this particular combination of artistic elements forced us to think through the technical solutions multiple times to find the best arrangement of those elements to give the audience members the most enjoyable experience possible.  Where to hang the screens, how to add the additional lighting necessary to create the effects envisioned by the original lighting

This project has stretched us to find new ways of working with each other, to refine what we are already doing, and to discover new ways to make  work together in new directions. For instance, the Appalachian Spring performance at the Schermerhorn had both the Symphony and Ballet Company sharing the stage.  For Carmina Burana, we are taking advantage of our movable seating system and storing multiple rows of seating in the lower level of the building to create a kind of orchestra pit from where the full Symphony will perform during the second half of the concert.  This frees the entire stage to make room for the dancers. The Ballet is bringing their sprung dance floor to be placed over the stage. We needed to take this into consideration when programming the first half of the concert in order to avoid damaging the sprung flooring.

What has been the most rewarding part of watching this event come together so far?  

Reaffirming that each time we hit a decision point, that everyone kept putting the quality, creativity, and quality of the project before individual opinion.  Our creative relationship is stronger now than when we began.

What will be the most exciting component of this production from the audience’s perspective?

We have coordinated the entire production around the elements and abilities of the Schermerhorn.  The audience is going to feel immersed in the experience and directly connected to the music, the dance, and the imagery.

What qualities make this performance an ideal community event? What about this program would appeal to someone that isn’t the average symphony-goer?  

I think that everyone knows more classical, or orchestral, music than they know.  Carmina Burana is a piece with themes so popular that they are used in movies, television, and commercials.  We think this program has something for everybody and think it will appeal to both brand new, and experienced audience members.

If you would want an audience member to know one thing about this production before the performance, what would it be?

The history of the work is fascinating and there is a lot of information about the history of the piece and the poetry on our web-site and around the internet.  You won’t need to know any of that to enjoy the performance. If you have a little time, however, understanding a bit of that will only add to the experience.

What kind of community partnerships do you and the Symphony have planned for next season?

We are already working on a very large cooperative project for the fall of 2020.  We hope to be able to say more about that soon but, for now, I will just say that the project will combine multiple organizations working on a single project and theme.

By the sound of it, this concert will be highly exciting for all members of the audience! A large-scale performance such as this does not happen very often, so you don’t want to miss out! Carmina Burana will run for four performances, beginning Friday, May 31, and ending Monday, June 3. Tickets are still available for all four nights.

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