SSO Presents Romeo and Juliet in Pre-Valentine’s Day Concert

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Andréa Tyniec will be featured in a performance of Peteris Vasks’ Distant Light. (Sasha Onyshchenko Photo)

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many are thinking about romance and love — and the heartbreak that can come with it.

The Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is no exception. On Feb. 9, the orchestra will present a concert entitled Tainted Love. It will bring Sergei Prokofiev’s masterpiece, Romeo and Juliet, back to the SSO stage for the first time in 20 years.

Mark Turner, the SSO’s executive director, said the orchestra has been saving Romeo and Juliet — inspired by the famous Shakespearean play — for a pre-Valentine’s Day time slot for a while. 

“Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet is just so full of romance and seething with angst. It’s a work that requires a very large orchestra, so it’s not something that can be easily undertaken. On top of that, it’s a tremendously demanding work for the musicians. It’s monumental in size and scope, which makes it one of the great works for both audience and musician,” he said, adding that audiences love it.

“It really drips with passion and spins the tale so well. It’s a story that so many people learn in their teens, and has had so many stagings and movies done of the work. Prokofiev’s musical setting of the play unfolds like an exceptional movie soundtrack.”

The much-anticipated concert will also feature a performance of Peteris Vasks’ Distant Light, with guest violinist Andréa Tyniec. Tyniec, who was raised in Montreal, was the first-prize winner of Italy’s Andrea Postacchini International Violin Competition 2008. She is also known for the drama and passion she brings to performances of contemporary work.

Tyniec said “it’s pretty thrilling” to know the performance will be a new discovery for many in the audience.

“I like to think of this work as tying us into the past and far into the future. There’s a sense of nostalgia for what once was, and of reaching for something in the distance. I find it’s one of those works that can be a powerful discovery for the listener, as it can become very personal and surface our individual attempt at growth, change and becoming,” said Tyniec.

Turner describes Vasks’ music as “a mix of being completely emotional and intellectual all at once.”

“He makes you think, but not academically — he makes you think and feel with your heart,” said Turner. “Like the Romeo and Juliet, it’s passionate music; it’s filled with this search for something beyond us. Distant Light is cathartic; it’s the type of music that you just have to allow yourself to escape into.”

Tyniec said she is excited to come to Saskatoon for the first time and to visit the hometown of her friends and fellow violinists Kerry DuWors and Carissa Klopoushak. She is also looking forward to meeting everyone in the SSO and to working again with the SSO’s music director, Eric Paetkau.

Her advice for the concert? Bring someone you want to get to know better.

“New music is an awesome way to discover what people listen for, what they notice and enjoy — and don’t — and how they respond to something new and unfamiliar,” she said.

The evening will also include a performance of Ichmouratov’s Youth Overture, and the Saskatoon Youth Orchestra will join the SSO to play Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture.

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 at TCU Place. For more information, or to purchase tickets, go online to saskatoonsymphony.org.