Catalina Maria Johnson

International radio broadcaster, bilingual cultural journalist, music curator

Chicago Sinfonietta

The Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration blurs the boundaries between life’s joys and death’s loss as we celebrate our loved ones who have passed away.

In much the same way, the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Día de los Muertos Celebration in collaboration with Redmoon Theater, blurs the boundaries between our different cultures as well as between theatre and music, spectacle and symphony.

The program will be directed by Lucia Matos, an acclaimed Brazilian conductor now Director of Orchestra and Opera at Northern Illinois University. By phone, Matos describes the program that is her first collaboration both with the Chicago Sinfonietta as well as Redmoon Theater.

All the pieces integrate well into the narrative of the whole performance, says Matos, with themes that contrast “the joyful celebration and the life of the people that have left and at the same time a little bit of the grief of the death.”

Some of the pieces had already been selected by the Sinfonietta, but Matos chose two: one by the Spanish composer Gerónimo Gimenez and the other by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Matos liked the Gimenez piece because even though the composer is from Spain, the song, “La Boda de Luis Alonso,” is “very popular in Mexico, particularly in mariachi ensembles, because it is so lively.”

In contrast to the Gimenez piece, she calls the Sibelius “very introspective” and explains that it was written for a play called “Death,” in which a woman dreams that she is dancing a very slow waltz with an unknown man, but then the music speeds up and then the woman realizes it is not a dream, and that she is dancing with death.

Falla’s piece, “Amor Brujo,” explains Matos, is also related to dancing and death; it tells the story of a woman whose deceased husband’s ghost haunts her and comes to her bedroom every night to dance with her.

For the Falla piece, Redmoon Theater, known for mixing pageantry, gadgetry, puppetry, physical performance and visuals in its art form, will collaborate for the second time in the Sinfonietta’s Day of Dead concert.

Redmoon’s Alex Balestrieri commented on how inspiring it was to collaborate with the “forward-thinking” Sinfonietta and create “beautiful imagery in relation to epic music.” He also described how Redmoon will perform using canta storia, a type of shadow scroll art inspired by an old form of theater and puppetry. Redmoon’s performers will accompany the Falla piece by creating ephemeral imagery captured in two scrolls nearly 300 feet long. It’s all about “providing imagery that supports emotional content and themes of the orchestra,” says Balestrieri, in order to underscore the orchestra’s “power and muscle and musical poetry.”

The concerts will be complemented by Altars for the Day of the Dead as well as a moment to toast the dearly departed at the complimentary El Jimador complimentary tequila tasting during intermission at both the Naperville and the Symphony Center concerts.

Feature photo: Chicago Sinfonietta Dia de los Muertos 2013 Concert, photo by Ockten Photography

Chicago Sinfonietta’s Día de los Muertos concerts will take place November 15 at Wentz Hall in Naperville and November 17 at Symphony Center in Chicago.


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