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Shadow Puppetry and orKIDStra Take Wing with "The Firebird"

April 16, 2010

Underground Railway Theater’s puppets bring Russian fairy tale to life

Rochester, NY – The RPO goes multi-media in its final orKIDStra concert of the season, with shadow puppets from Underground Railway Theater bringing the story of The Firebird to life.  The concert is conducted by Michael Butterman (The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair) on Sunday, May 9 at 2:00 pm at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre

The RPO concert “takes wing” with the suite from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Swan Lake, followed by The White Peacock, an exquisite and impressionistic piece originally written in 1915 for piano by American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes, and scored for orchestra in 1919.  Inspired by the Victorian poetry of William Sharp, The White Peacock is a musical portrayal of the rare and mystical albino bird.  Griffes’ music perfectly depicts this exotic animal. 

As a young 27-year-old, Igor Stravinsky composed the lush score of The Firebird to accompany Serge Diaghilev’s spectacular Ballet Russes in 1909.  Based on the beloved and magical creature from Russian folklore, the story of The Firebird (akin to the mythological phoenix) also involves an evil ogre, a prince, and a captive princess.

Underground Railway Theater’s The Firebird is a color shadow puppet ballet set to Stravinsky’s 1919 suite, and has become a classic since its commission by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra in 1980.  Since then, it has been performed with scores of orchestras through the United States and at international festivals in France, Canada, Spain, Greece, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.  It was awarded the highest distinction in puppetry: a citation from l’Union Internationale des Marionettes.  This breathtakingly beautiful story of friendship between a boy and the mythical Firebird is charged with excitement provided by a fantastic army of little monsters.  Three actors from URT portray all the characters, with foot-long puppets acting out the story from behind a large screen. Debra Wise, URT’s Artistic Director and founding member, will provide the story narration, with musical accompaniment by the RPO.

Although ideal for children of all ages, RPO orKIDStra concerts – sponsored by Wendy’s Restaurants of Rochester – are designed for families with young children ages 3 and up.  RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; Monroe County; and the City of Rochester.  

General admission tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for children, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100); in person from the RPO Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm); and seven days a week at area Wegmans.  A convenience fee may apply.

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