Coping with crisisThe North Carolina Symphony‘s final streaming concert of the 2020-21 season was a memorably fitting finale for an innovative season. In contrast to some of the concerts livestreamed earlier this season, which featured one or two sections of NCS at a time, this performance saw the entire orchestra onstage joined by acrobats of Cirque de la Symphonie. Host Joseph Peters introduced the first selection of what would be a program full of boisterous and beautiful favorites. Conducted by Wesley Schultz, the NC Symphony began the concert with Rossini’s Overture to La Cenerentola – full of Rossini’s signature lightness with some unexpectedly striking cadences. NCS featured a few “solo” performances throughout the program as well, adding to the list of classic pops for this season-ending concert.

Georgia-based Cirque de la Symphonie exclusively performs with live symphony orchestras, blending orchestral pops with a plethora of cirque feats. To begin, Brazilian composer Zequinha Abreu‘s “Tico-Tico no Fubá” featured a quick-change duet by Vladimir and Elena Tsarkov that was equal parts humorous acting, dance, and mesmerizing feat that left audiences curious – how did she do it? Aleksander Deev’s exciting cube and frame routine, appropriately set to the rolling “Les Toréadors” from Carmen, was contrasted stunningly with Elena Zhirnova’s gorgeous choreography to Debussy’s “Claire de Lune,” performed with a level of grace that belied the obvious strength underneath. Of course, the NCS provided the heightened level of musical contrast, together bringing a new edge to the familiar melodies.

It’s no surprise that Cirque de la Symphonie’s performances didn’t just remain on the musicians’ eye level. Vitalii Buza’s magnificent aerial straps routine lifted him high above the stage, matching the power and forward-rushing flight of Saint-Saens Danse Macabre. Deev performed with a Cyr Wheel, which is basically a gigantic hula hoop, to lift himself spinning off the stage floor as well. Not only did Tsarkov juggle hoops in his harlequin costume, but he also juggled bowling pins and provided some mime-esque humor throughout the performances.

To close the concert, Buza and Zhirnova performed a dazzlingly elegant duet using aerial silks alongside the Waltz from Swan Lake, creating enthralling tableaus both in midair and onstage. At one point, the two acrobats held each other aloft using only the silks and their hands or feet. This was one of the longer selections on the concert’s program, thankfully so, and the finale saw both dancers circularly flying above the stage – a beautiful waltz indeed.