On December 18 and 19, Cirque Musica teamed up with the North Carolina Symphony for a two-night engagement with Cirque’s Holiday Spectacular. On Saturday, under the baton of David Glover, Associate Conductor of the NCS, and the comedic guidance of Cirque’s clown and Master of Ceremonies Bucky “the bad elf,” acrobats both musical and circensian delighted the Raleigh audience. 

The North Carolina Symphony, illuminated in festive red and green, kicked off the evening with Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival.” After a hearty welcome from Bucky and a brief dance routine from the multi-talented aerialists, the game was afoot. First up, to the tune of Bedřich Smetana’s “Dance of the Comedians” from The Bartered Bride, was the impressive one-man balancing act followed by a graceful contortionist and aerialist side-by-side performance to Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.”

Mid-way through the first portion of the program, NCS took the spotlight with an energetic “Dance of the Tumblers” from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Snow Maiden. With the subsequent vocal stylings of Cirque’s Blaine Krauss on “The Christmas Song,” the evening took on the feel of a true variety show. (Cirque Musica seemed very intentional in presenting an ensemble piece. Individual performers were not recognized in neither program nor the company’s website. Therefore, Krauss’ name was unfortunately, and despite much Internet research, one of the few names gleaned from the evening’s dialogue.) Culminating with a roller coaster of talented circus performances, Bucky and his young assistant humored the crowd with some impressive balancing; the assistant then took the stage on his own to wow the crowd with the Chinese yo-yo skills of a seasoned circus performer.

One lyra performance, perhaps the highlight before intermission, was accented with drama as the audience was bid to remain silent for the duration of the young woman’s act. Suspended from her steel hoop high above center stage, the young performer completed pose after pose to the graceful swells of “O Holy Night,” at one point hanging only from her feet. The first act culminated on a “high note” as Cirque’s female vocalist led the crowd in a sing-a-long version of everyone’s latest favorite, “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen

The North Carolina Symphony opened after intermission with full energy as they raced through John Williams “Flight to Neverland.” Cirque Musica matched their enthusiasm with a performance full of thrilling circus acts, peppered with the vocal acrobatics of their singing duo on several Christmas favorites, including “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and “Winter Wonderland.” 

A solo violinist was hoisted to the rafters while accompanied by NCS on “Silent Night” as a talented hand balancer performed the second routine of the evening in which the audience was bid silent until the end of the routine. The impressive feat of strength was immediately followed by an incredible double act to culminate the evening. Two of the company’s aerialists performed a trapeze routine hanging from one another while suspended from a pole high above the orchestra center stage. Punctuated by the dramatic “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo,” popularized by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the act’s subsequent standing ovation was more than well deserved.

With such energy and talent, the North Carolina Symphony and Cirque Musica inevitably put everyone in the holiday spirit with their Holiday Spectacular. Catch the North Carolina Symphony again as they ring in the New Year with their performance of “New Year’s Eve in Vienna” on December 31. Cirque Musica won’t be back to North Carolina in 2015, but be sure to look out for their next collaboration with the NCS – surely a show you won’t want to miss.