Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses (2016)

The_Legend_of_Zelda_Symphony_of_the_Goddesses_logo

Score = 3/5

(Live Orchestra/ Digital Arts/ G – **if there was a rating)

 

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

 Logline:  30 years of memories, resurfaced in 2 hours.

**may contain spoilers**

It’s hard to believe this series has been around for so long.  I still remember the first time I cracked open the box on the first Legend of Zelda game for the original NES and my eyes popped open to twice their size at that sweet golden cartridge inside.  Well, it was still plastic, but the coating was a spitting image of a shiny piece of gold.  And that game was on point the second you hit the power button and that opening theme song started playing.  Oooh man.  I was still a young’n at the time, but something about that start screen music told you this was about to be epic.  And it did NOT disappoint.

Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is a unique orchestra experience.  As with any orchestra, the goal is to take your ears on an exciting journey.

master sword  link to past

A Link to the Past

This show strives to do more with our time spent in the theater by projecting gaming moments that span across the majority of the series up on a large screen in the center of the orchestra.  Remember when the old man gave you that wooden sword in the first game and told you it was ‘dangerous to go alone?’ Or how about when you first removed the Master Sword from the stone in a Link to the Past?

 

A handful of Zelda games were on display, each with their own orchestrated segment.  I particularly loved how they designed the music to flow along with the on-screen action. Most pieces started off with the over-world theme and hardcore Zelda fans knew exactly which game in the series we were about to be treated to within the first few notes.  The music blended quite nicely as they took us through key parts of each game by bringing the sound low at times to capture mood changes only to pick the energy back up when facing a boss or two on the screen until it’s climax.

There were also some standout moments in the second half of the show when the conductor put down her standard baton and reached over for one with a bit more… style to it.

twilight princess horse

Twilight Princess

One of my favorite moments was during the Twilight Princess set.  Maybe it was that theme song, or maybe the crisp hits on those harp strings, but man, they had my neck groovin’ during that piece.

Over the years many gamers have come to not only appreciate, but look forward to the music in games today.  Many of us are even audiophiles that associate sounds with a particular location in the gaming world in addition to the place they were when they were playing, clothes they were wearing at the time,  or even the brown wooden chair with the ugly pastel-green seat cushion we were sitting in when we first heard a particular sound from the game.  Pretty astounding really.

The music in the Zelda series has always been a wonderful addition to a solid gaming series over the years, but grew into it’s own persona when the Ocarina of Time released. All of those different songs deliberately used to do different things in the game seemed to have created a gift and a curse situation for Nintendo after that master piece of a game. They’ve tried to emulate the music as a character for the game for many of the iterations after it.  Majora’s mask worked to an extent, but some of the others after it felt a bit rehashed in terms of creativity music wise and game-play wise.  Hopefully with the new release coming in 2017, they’ll change the game again with more creativity in the music in addition to the Zelda formula.

I gave this show a 3 out of 5 for a couple of reasons.  While I do love the trip down memory lane, I also would have welcomed a bit more in the atmospheric tone happening throughout the show.  There were maybe about 2 or 3 sets where they captured that essence of mood building and impacting sounds while matching up with the screen action, but I feel they could have done more in this sense to really take the mind through reliving more moments.  For the most part, the over-world themes of each game with varying main music pieces were played.

Skyward sword

Skyward Sword

Sure the show is only 2 hours, but in that two hours, I think we could have switched up each piece to showcase maybe more subtle points in the games, rather than the same rinse and repeat formula.  This also could have been carried over into the screen action as well to match up with the different moods of the games. They definitely capitalized on things such as Wind Waker’s pirate themes and Twilight Princess’s darker vibes, and I believe this should have been captured across the entire spectrum of games on display during the show.

Overall the show was enjoyable.  I’d definitely recommend it if you are a Zelda fan.  And if you do attend, don’t make the mistake of leaving after the lights go out and the conductor walks off the stage the first time. *hint-hint*

 

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SHEN YUN (*2015)

 

Shen-Yun

 

Score = B

(Live/ Performing Arts/ G – **if there was a rating)

*The year is not a typo.  Their new year starts in December and ends in May in the US.

 

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  Chinese culture told through interpretive dance and music.

Well, well, well… Look who gets to add a shiny new section to their review blog.  Yep, this guy!  And I couldn’t be more thrilled about it!  I typically haven’t sought out too many live shows for entertainment, because, well, they very rarely entertain me. (Except for maybe a couple of shows in ‘Vegas, but not entirely for the reasons you’re probably thinking.  The strength some of those seemingly normal human beings is quite impressive!)

But this about Shen Yun.  A nonprofit company based in New York that has made it their mission to revive authentic Chinese culture through classical Chinese dance and music.  Two very powerful methods used for over 5000 years to ensure Chinese culture is continually passed down to new generations.  They note the reality of the current communist situation over in China, which pretty much locks down freedom of expression and worship in a multitude avenues to the point where even a show such as this one would not be allowed to perform there.  Well, as unfortunate as that is, I’d have to say, their loss is our gain.

This year’s show runs about two and a half hours (including intermission) and includes almost two dozen separate performance pieces.  Most of them are stories told through beautifully choreographed dance sets broken up by introductions.  We also get treated to solo soprano performances during our time here and although the singers’ voices were extremely powerful, it was Guang Ling’s vocal tones that absolutely blew me away.  The songs are sung in Chinese so the words are displayed in English on a screen behind the singers.  However, if you’re anything like me and listen to music from different regions even though you can’t understand the language, you tend to appreciate the sound just as much or maybe more than the actual words.  Speaking of sound, Lu Sun has a solo musical number (with accompanying piano) playing the erhu – a bowed, two-stringed Chinese vertical fiddle – that’s absolutely breathtaking!

A few of my favorites during the show included: “Sleeves of Grace” – a colorful number with the maidens dancing near a lotus pond with silk sleeves accenting their movements, “Monkey King and The Skeleton Demon” – a demon disguises herself in a number of human forms to capture the monk and his people and it’s up to the Monkey King to save them, and finally “Chopsticks Dance of the Mongolian Ladies.”  This last one here with the chopsticks… yeah, I need to find more of these!  The elegant movement of the ladies combined with the sequined outfits flowed well with the drums and sound of them clicking the chopsticks to the beat.  It was pretty sweet!  Everything was so fluid and those drums made you want to shake those shoulders just a bit.  Loved it!

Shen-Yun2 Shen Yun may have started their journey together in 2006, but don’t let the young age of the company deter you from checking out their show at least once in your life.  Most of the magical folks that make up the company are veterans in their craft from different parts of the globe.  The artists here represent everything from singing, dancing, musical and physical training.  Some of these performers have even been at their craft since the young age of six and their mastery of their respective avenue of study is evident on stage.  The video backgrounds add a comfortably seamless integration to each story, but make no mistake, there’s nothing artificial about the skills witnessed here.

The orchestra Shen Yun has put together is on a level of its own.  They compose original music pieces combining traditional instruments from Chinese culture with instruments and sound from our neck of the woods here on the Western side of things.  The Shen Yun Orchestra has over 90 musicians and also goes on tour throughout the year as its own entity separate from dance.  It was my first experience enjoying a live symphony orchestra and I promise you this; it will NOT be my last!  Having a great sound system is great and all, but you haven’t had a “crispy” sound experience until you’ve literally shared the same breathing space with all of the instruments collaborating together in perfect harmony with room acoustics to die for.  If only I could find the album…

Not much could be said in the ways of less than satisfactory in regards to Shen Yun’s show.  The one gripe I have is strictly an opinion more so than a production issue.  My minor issue is with the amount of stories being told.  I feel that trying to put so many different stories into the show takes away from how powerful the program really could be.  Each story is roughly about five minutes a piece and by the time it starts ramping up and you really get into it is right about the time the curtain closes on that particular story.  If they maybe cut the number of stories in half and made them more elaborate, the audience could have a more in-depth experience of each piece by the time the curtain drops.  The majority of the production centers on good vs. evil and paying respect to the gods, so the themes are pretty obvious and easy to grasp.  I would just like to bring home more from each story for a deeper telling rather than the “CliffsNotes” version to really engulf me in what’s happening on the stage.

Seeing this show was definitely a step outside of my comfort zone.  I stumbled across a pamphlet at a Chinese food restaurant about a year ago and all the colors and acrobatics implied caught my attention.  After finding out more about the show, the more intrigued I became at jumping in (see what I did there) to see what all the fuss was about.  While I missed the opportunity last year, I’m definitely glad I didn’t miss it this year.  It has inspired me in a number of ways and was a straight up enjoyable time.  Aside from maybe trying to tell too many stories in one sitting, this production absolutely has my vote for an encore.  If it’s happening in your area, do yourself a favor and give it a go.  At the very least, you’ll definitely enjoy all the vibrant colors and of course the music.